Review: Sydney Anglicanism, An Apology

sydney-anglicanismThere is a lot about this book I needed to read and anyone who is connected with Sydney Anglicanism should too. I am a relative outsider of Sydney Anglicanism (1), yet proud and happy to be called a part of it. In this book, Michael has educated me on key aspects of how Sydney Anglicanism is viewed to the outsider. He has divided the book into “the Bible” and “the Church” and looked at some key hallmarks of what characterises Sydney Anglicanism as a movement/ culture/ thing. In doing so he has interacted with critics from the outside such as Kevin Giles and Muriel Porter and shown that Sydney Anglicanism is not the strange anomaly that time forgot, but rather a movement of conviction and deep thought. There are areas of history that Michael has researched and I have appreciated as I have got to know the ‘family stories’. For anyone interacting or living in Sydney Anglicanism this is a must read.

But I have to agree with Tony Payne, that the weakness of the book is not what is said, but what is not said (2). Tony picked up that there was no mention of Chappo (John Chapman to the non-Sydney Anglicans). But I think this, in turn, is a sign of something much larger, indeed larger than the book itself. During my time at AFES, one of the things that was drummed into us is the warning “what the first generation fought for, the second generation assumed and the third generation will deny”. I see myself, and Michael for that matter, as very much a part of the second generation. What I see us assuming is what David Bebbington(3) sees as one the of the four key marks of evangelicalism: conversionism. Is it’s absence from the book due to the blind-spot that is being shown as Michael, like me, is a part of the second generation of assuming? One could argue that it is due to the fact that the book is addressed more to the outsider and this is more an internal problem. But I would counter that by saying it is one of the key ideas that mark us different to the catholic, liberal character that the rest of the Anglican communion has become – a concern for people’s souls. This could be one of the most important lessons of the book.

(1) I am ordained and licensed as a minister in Sydney, but most of my professional ministry has been with AFES.  I have never held a position in Synod, nor attended in an official capacity.  I have had a brief tenure on one of the Anglican committees but that is all.
(3) As referred to in Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism. Vol. 1. 5 vols. A History of Evangelicalism. Leicester England: Apollos/ IVP, 2004. p16.

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