Synod’s warm inner glow

John Sandeman

This pewsitter lives in a council that is not afraid to tell the ratepayers what it thinks. The signs tell travellers to the inner west that we are a nuclear-free zone. They also say: "Refugees are welcome, but aircraft noise is not". 

It is a comfort to know that a nuclear power plant won't be built on Parramatta Road, and that any person fleeing oppression won't be stopped at the council boundaries. But those planes keep flying through my church building - or it can feel like it on Sunday morning.

One of the most memorable council motions was condemning Ceausescu (the former dictator of Romania) for destroying village architecture. I just don't know how we could have looked the world in the face if that one had lapsed for want of a seconder.

It is called "the politics of warm inner glow": passing a motion that takes a trendy or radical stand that won't cost a cent.  It is a break from the hard slog of making the rates stretch out to do the things the council really has to do.

This sort of warm inner glow should not be confused with John Wesley's heart being "strangely warmed" at the Aldersgate church - the Wesley version is the genuine article.

But the fake version is sometimes found in the unlikeliest of places. Such as our recent Synod.

As far as I can make out, the Synod passed a motion saying that "we really really believe in lay presidency" and "but as church law prevents us doing it, we won't".

Lay presidency means that suitable members of our church congregations should be allowed to run the communion service, in the same way that they are licensed or allowed to preach.

Should the Diocese, or St Pewsitters ever be crazy enough to allow the pewsitter to run communion, I would be happy to. I agree with the Synod that there's nothing in the Bible to suggest that the communion service is more special than preaching.

The Synod's motion includes deacons being allowed to run a communion service, too. In most Anglican dioceses, deacons rapidly become priests, but Sydney is restricting priest or presbyter status to those ready to run a parish. It is possible that recent changes to church law have made it possible for deacons to run communion already.

But Sydney's long-awaited goal of ordinary, unordained people running communion is not any closer.

Bringing 800 people together to say we are really in favour of lay presidency but only hypothetically, because we won't be doing it, is an odd way to spend a Monday night.

The sense that some sort of a radical stance was being struck was disturbing.

There are radical stands being made in the Anglican Communion right now. It is radical for our brother and sister evangelical Anglicans in North America to put their church property at risk, or leave it behind, for the sake of the gospel.

It is radical for African Christians to refuse desperately needed money from weathy apostate churches because it comes with theological strings attached. These are radical stands that are costly.

PHOTO: Matthew Niemi