Current state of play

Jeremy Halcrow

As I mentioned last week, the buzz around various ministry blog topics sketches a rough outline of where this generation is heading, whereas news trends gives us a much sharper snapshot of our immediate location.

So what were the highest rating news stories of the year, and how did these events shape the life of Sydney Diocese? And what is their significance?

1. New atheism comes to Australia

Atheism and cyber-abuse (#1)

The year kicked-off with the high profile visits of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to the atheist convention in Melbourne, helping make my piece on 'atheism and cyber abuse' the highest ranking story of the year.
Phillip Jensen's high rating column on 'evidence-based decisions' also tapped into this zeitgeist.

However, it is important that church leaders do not become obsessed with aggressive atheism. They are not middle Australia. Counting the number of atheists who write smug insults aimed at Christian authors on a various news website is a poor way to assess the mood of the nation.

The internet has a habit of unnecessarily inflaming and intensifying disagreement. One internet expert has talked abut the 'Red Guard and Redneck' dynamic where the new media draws together polar opposite groups (such as pitching Chinese and American nationalists against each other) to the detriment of peaceful, civil dialogue. 

2. Fight over SRE and ethics classes

SRE debate: agenda need untangling (#2); SJEC seeks to heal SRE damage (#4); Govt trial decimates SRE (#8)

This was undoubtedly our hottest news story of the year.

It's not every day I get quoted as an expert in a Sydney Morning Herald news story. It happened twice this year thanks to various analysis pieces I wrote about the SRE/ethics issue on this website.

What is the significance of this debate?

The ongoing fallout from this dispute will not be clear until after the State election in March. While Labor has locked in 'ethics' classes via legislation, the Coalition could seek to introduce its own ethics model.

In essence Archbishop Jensen argued that Christianity is such an important part of our culture that it should be taught to all students. Some have claimed that the churches decisively lost that argument and should cut their losses.

What is most interesting, however, is that none of the key players argued directly against Archbishop Jensen's point but rather focused on the issue of providing parental 'choice'. This leaves the door open to political conservatives to mount a campaign around a different form of ethics course or a reshaping of the way General Religious Education is taught in the mainstream curriculum in response to the rise of the ethics alternative. Is there place for study of the Bible's influence on Australian culture in HSIE?

Tactically, a decision was made not to develop an alternative option to the SJEC proposal apart from the status quo. Now conservatives are free to argue for alternatives, for example that a course on Western (Judeo-Christian) ethics is a better 'morals and ethics' option to the SJEC's philosophy course.

3. Youth ministry video goes viral

Soul Revival Jesus Movement launch (#3)

Not a world-beating headline compared to some of the others on this list. But when it comes to the main game - lives being transformed by Christ - the best stories are always local.

The popularity of the "home-made" video story we posted from this new Sutherland Shire youth ministry network is a reminder of the viral impact of online news. We had a staggering number of Facebook referrals to this video. I am sure it was morale booster for those involved to see it 'liked' across various online social networks. 

4. Synod 2010

Synod 2010 news - index page (#5), Bishopscourt: sentiment triumphs over sense (#6)

Sydney Diocese's 2010 Synod was particularly big news thanks to the financial losses and the Bishopscourt sale proposal.

The frustrating aspect of last year's Synod was that the critical financial decisions were merely postponed. Synod 2011 will be monstrous. I am not sad I won't be there this year!

5. Record Sydney ordinations

Record ordination (#7); Nathan gets born again, again (#10)

While some other Christian denominations have struggled to recruit new clergy in recent years, Sydney Diocese's ordinations have broken records year after year this decade. Over the past five years, Sydney Diocese has ordained a staggering 233 new deacons.

Overlooked somewhat given the recent financial losses, ministry recruitment is the most significant strength of Sydney Diocese. It should be celebrated.

PERSONAL NOTE

Well that's it for me. Fare well and God bless.

This site would be far diminished without the volunteer efforts of our bloggers as well as the comments of our many readers. It's been a joy and pleasure engaging with all of you over the past five years. I have learnt a great deal through interacting with you all.

A call out to my former colleagues Mark Hadley, Robert Moller, and Al Dowthwaite for their work developing this manifestation of the site. Hearty thanks must go to Stephen Mason, Kylie Zahra and Russell Powell for all their hard work behind the scenes keeping this site going in various ways through our recent belt tightening. 

A special thank you too, to all those who have sent encouragement to me in recent weeks. Your words are treasured.

TOP 10 NEWS ON SYD ANG IN 2010

1. Atheism and cyber-abuse (5603 views)
2. SRE debate: agendas need untangling (5354 views)
3. Soul Revival Jesus movement video (4664 views)
4. SJEC seeks to heal SRE damage (4183 views)
5. Synod 2010 news - index page (3738 views)
6. Bishopscourt: sentiment triumphs over sense (3697 views)
7. Record Ordination (3686 views)
8. Govt trial decimates SRE (3636 views)
9. Top 7 political trends in 2010 (3397 views)
10. Nathan gets born again, again (3371 views)

HOME PAGE PHOTO: Aaron Lai