David Ould reports on the appointment of a post-Christian bishop, Jeremy Greaves, for the Anglican Church of Australia
Greaves’ appointment will be viewed by many as controversial and even provocative. He gained notoriety for himself when Dean of Darwin Cathedral as a proponent of “progressive Christianity”, most recently being lead organiser of the 2016 “Common Dreams” conference in Brisbane. He is an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage but perhaps even more troubling he rejects key understandings of Christianity that he will be required to reaffirm at his consecration (having already promised at his ordination to teach them). One particular example will suffice.
In a 2010 ABC Radio National interview with Rachael Kohn he took part in a discussion of Progressive Christianity. The interview includes this exchange:
Rachael Kohn: Do you specifically then have difficulties with the Apostles’ Creed that you might like to rewrite it or ditch it?
Jeremy Greaves: I’d be happy to abandon the Creed.
As a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia Greaves may struggle to represent the church with integrity. The Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia [pdf] opens with these words:
Chapter I. – FUNDAMENTAL DECLARATIONS
- The Anglican Church of Australia, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, holds the Christian Faith as professed by the Church of Christ from primitive times and in particular as set forth in the creeds known as the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
It will be his role to uphold and teach that faith which is in particular set forth in statements that he has publicly stated he would “be happy to abandon”.
As the interview concludes we hear this as he discusses the tension being speaking clearly about what he actually believes and the need to continue to draw a salary from his position:
Rachael Kohn: When you said the gut, it reminded me of what Gretta Vosper said, she was quoting Carter Haywood, who named the lurch in her stomach as God. What was your response to Gretta’s charge to the conference here to leave behind a lot of what has been traditional about Christianity, and even abandon some of the terminology?
Jeremy Greaves:I feel very conflicted about some of those things because – and she talked about that chasm between what so many of us believe and what we feel we have permission to say in our churches. And for so many of us in ministry, we’re locked into a model where the people who sit in the pews pay our salaries, pay our way. I have a wife and three small children to support and so the challenge of being too prophetic and changing too many things too quickly is that there won’t be enough people left in the short term to help me survive financially, and that’s a brutal and very difficult challenge.
And for so many of my colleagues in their 60s, which the majority, certainly in the Anglican church clergy are, they can probably get away with doing the same thing for another three or four years, and I have probably 30 years of ministry ahead, and that won’t work. And so the real challenge, from what Gretta has said, is knowing that we need to be somewhere else, but for me it’s the fear that comes with that and perhaps lacking the courage sometimes to go quite as far as we perhaps need to go.
It does seem now that fear of loss of income or worry about permission to speak is no longer a problem when the Archbishop is happy to appoint as bishop a man who publicly stated he would abandon the Apostles’ Creed.
Reprinted with the author's permission from DavidOuld.net