Verdict of Driscollmania

John Sandeman

I remember the Vietnam moratorium. "The crowd tore up the paving stones and tossed them through the windows of the army barracks over the road from the university…"

The pewsitter could bore you for hours with stuff like that. The point is this: it's the nature of the young to be passionate about causes, and to go too far.

Which is why the wimpy conformist streak in this Diocese has always worried me. But relief is at hand. It's been a month of Driscollmania. At many rectory dining tables, and across Moore College lawns, a searing critique of Sydney by visiting evangelist Mark Driscoll, the enfant terrible of evangelicalism has been the big news.

Driscoll's 18-point sermon, delivered at a conference at St Andrew's Cathedral, included the charge that Sydney was too "British" and "anti-entrepreneurial".

He added that. church planting was not widespread or welcome. Sydney Anglicans are afraid of the Holy Spirit so the Trinity is the Father, Son and Holy Bible. The denominational system is built on control and restrains the young . The team is stacked with theologians and lacks missiologists who understand the culture we are working in… and (of course) the tall poppy syndrome keeps everything mediocre.

Whether all 18 punches landed is open to debate. But the organisers of Driscoll's talk are to be commended for publishing it. You can find a summary on the ever reliable website.

Reaction ranged from the conviction that Driscoll was repeating what Phillip Jensen has been saying for ages, to criticising his theology, especially about the Holy Spirit.

To this pewsitter, Driscoll's most urgent point was that 300 young Australian men had approached him saying they wanted to plant churches. He said our two years of Ministry Training Scheme (MTS) followed by four years of Moore College and three years as an assistant minister rob these guys of their best years.

Driscoll planted his mushrooming Mars Hill Church in Seattle at 25 with no training. He says the Sydney approach is too timid, safe and slow.

It's a great irony that a diocese criticised for stepping on too many Anglican toes is now being criticised for being cautious. But it is probably a fair criticism. Our city is not being won for Christ.

We could do with not 300 but 3,000 extra churches in this city. And a new generation that could make what was thought radical just a few years ago seem tame is to be welcomed.

Moore principal John Woodhouse was heard to joke post-Driscoll that as no 21-year-old had been found to take over his job, the students would just have to put up with a 60-year-old.

The Woodhouse/Jensen generation were the radicals 20 years ago. They told the generation before them things were too tame and Sydney was too hidebound and churchy. They were right. It is rather delicious that a new generation is saying similar things to them. 

We need to ensure that youthful (and even non-youthful) enthusiasm is captured for the gospel. This pewsitter is pleased that a new generation has declared war on the old way of doing things. It's the way things get renewed.