Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who would I want as the next Anglican Archbishop of Sydney

When no one reads your blog, you feel a certain freedom to ask questions that you might otherwise keep to yourself in polite company. Via a couple of biographies, I've been exploring the history of the Sydney Diocese recently and at the same time sitting in Synod. I hear Peter Jensen's masterful presidential address (without being happy about all its content) and observed his excellent skills as a chairman. I am thankful to God that he is our archbishop. But I believe he will retire in 2013, which really isn't all that far away.

Who comes next?

My ideal archbishop would be:

  1. Reformed and evangelical in his theology
  2. An able theological thinker, evangelist and preacher
  3. Experienced in managing something large and nebulous involving strong headed clergy
  4. Extensively experienced in parish ministry
  5. Someone with a proven church planting track record
  6. Capable of being trained to deal effectively with the media.

Have we got one of them somewhere? You'd probably find all those bases covered if you put together all our existing bishops, but I don't think Archbishop of Sydney is normally a role you job share!

There's a strong potential candidate at Moore College (and recent developments at the college mean it would not be 'left in the lurch' if he was elected) but synod old timers with long memories might perhaps present something of an obstacle. And synod might be reluctant to have two MTC principals in a row.

I wonder if this might be a unique opportunity to do something I wouldn't normally contemplate.

What about going outside?

Is it possible that someone like Richard Coekin at the Co-Mission Initiative or Willian Taylor at St Helen's in London might fit the bill? OK they're Poms, but God even loves Poms, that's how wide the love of Christ is. And really, they are Sydney Anglican in everything except geography. They seem to do well on every point on my list I think.

Now I just have to persuade the ACL powers that be. Which could be a problem, because it might require me to actually pay my membership renewal this year!


  1. You'd have crossed paths with both of them during your English sojourn wouldn't you Gav?

  2. I've discussed this very issue with a group of Sydney clergy today, and as I said to them, my first vote would be for David Short.

  3. On my criteria (which everyone else should obviously immediately line themselves up with!):

    Scores well on 1,2,4.

    Don't know about 6 (although he must have had a high level of media interaction)

    Not bad on 3 in that at least he's led a reasonable size parish (but I think the pommy guys have dealt with more nebulous setups)

    5 seems to be missing. Does he have any church planting experience?

    You'd also have to factor in his health (

  4. Craig, I do not think any of the 11 archbishops Sydney has had would fit your ideals.
    Have they all been flawed and not good enough in your mind?

  5. Hi David,

    No, I don't think so; different times call for different requirements. Given the context we currently live in, and the priority that our current strategy seems to place on church planting these strike me as key criteria for now.

  6. Craig, I'm not an Anglican, but I appreciate the leadership that our godly evangelical Anglican archbishops have provided to the wider Christian community.

    I would be hugely disappointed if Sydney could not come up with a godly man with a nice broad Aussie accent like Peter's.

    I greatly appreciate his wisdom, his holiness and his teaching, but also his terrific fair dinkum Australianness.

    It would be so disappointing for someone with a plum in their mouth to be appointed.

    Love the Poms. But don't see them as Australian archbishops.

    [Prefer a premier with an Aussie accent, too, despite the terrific haircut.]

  7. David,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with everything you say about Peter, I just don't care what accent my archbishop has as much as I care about the criteria I listed above.

    Given how many Sydney Anglicans are downloading sermons on a weekly basis from other parts of the world, I wonder how much they care about it.

    Maybe I'm just not patriotic enough?? I did work in a global organisation in my previous life, where teams were made up of people from around the world; maybe that's influenced me to say, 'go for the best, regardless of where they're from'??

    My point is not that we MUST look outside Sydney, just that when I consider my criteria there are a couple of pretty good candidates in England who we should at least be thinking about.

  8. The days of non-Australian governors-general are over ... I think. [And hope.]

    We wouldn't go for a non-Australian premier or non-Australian mayor of Sydney would we?

    [Kristina's Australian: just needs to work on the accent a bit.]

  9. And yet large companies regularly go for a CEO who is not from the country in which the company is headquartered or where it does most of it's business.

    If there was a foreigner who was a frequent visitor, well connected with Sydney, well known to key players in the local scene, who shared local values and priorities and who seemed to have also demonstrated strong skills in doing similar jobs I'd be willing to consider voting for them as mayor.

    People are already doing that with Christina, despite the fact that her 'Australianness' seems pretty thin to many of us.

    We live in a global village now and I'm happy to see that reflected in the leadership of our church, if a particular candidate from overseas has strong links with the diocese and shares our fundamental values, priorities and assumptions.

    Again I'm not saying we SHOULD consider someone from overseas specifically BECAUSE they're from overseas. Just that there are a couple of candidates who stack up strong on my criteria who happen to be from overseas.