A ‘blast from the past’: In 2001, I was working for Anglican Media Sydney, and transcribed Peter Jensen’s first media conference as Archbishop-elect of Sydney. I’m re-posting it here partly because it’s once again become a topic of interest for many people in Sydney – but also because it will encourage, challenge and even inspire you as a model of thoughtful Christian interaction with the world. Enjoy!
I want to make this brief statement to begin.
First, I want to stake my life on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That’s the agenda; that’s the news as far as I’m concerned.
The main contest today, in the world in which we live, is a contest between the men and women who think that this world is all there is – and therefore there is no hope, no eternal life, no God, no forgiveness of sins, no Holy Spirit – and those who believe, as I do, that God is true, that his Kingdom will come, that there is eternal life and that angels exist. I believe in the Holy Spirit, and angels, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And that’s what I’m on about.
Flowing on from that as a second point, I believe there’s a link between that first position of not believing and the grave social difficulties we are experiencing in our community. I think a lack of hope infects our young people, and it contributes to such evils as the gambling mania that is such a prominent part in our society today. I think that, as a community, we should be intensely worried about gambling. I believe we should be worried about the volume of pain and suffering that this and, of course, other materialistically-dominated activities bring in our community, and I think we ought to be sorry for the way in which our governments have incorporated so much gambling revenue into the state revenues, for we’re all living on the suffering of other people.
Third and last, if we want a real test for the humanity and the civilisation of our community, we must always look to the way in which we treat the lonely, the dispossessed, the vulnerable, and especially how we, as a community, treat prisoners and captives. Any Archbishop must first of all declare, as I am declaring today, an interest – a prior interest – in those who are most vulnerable, in order that our consciences may be quickened.
And I want particularly today to call attention to the whole question of so-called ‘illegal immigrants’. The very name itself begs the question. Very often, these people are legitimate asylum seekers. And there is a question before our community today, I believe, about our treatment of such folk and how we handle the situation of their coming here. I believe that we are playing on some of the fears of the Australian community in an unfortunate way. I’m very sympathetic to the Government and its grave difficulties in handling this issue. I don’t believe there are simple solutions. But I believe if we want to know whether our community is travelling well, we need to go to places like Villawood and other places like this and ask ourselves how we are treating the alien and the stranger in our midst.
All this flows, I think, from the resurrection from the dead. I believe that Jesus is alive, he is with us now, and I believe it’s my business to tell people about this and to share that news with them.
That’s the conclusion of my statement, and I’d be happy to take questions.
[Questions, prefaced by media outlet represented, appear in bold]
[ABC] In terms of refugees, do you think the Federal Government has been doing an inadequate job?
It seems to me that the Federal Government could improve its game in this area. I am sympathetic to Mr Ruddock. I understand the difficulties he has, but it seems in reading about this and listening to our own chaplains talk about it, for example, that the game needs to be lifted.
Given that you have brought this up in your first public statement, do you see yourself having a political role?
Any minister of the word of God has a political role in our community, because we will be speaking about issues that affect the life of the community. But not a political role in the sense of a party political role. I will keep my own voting habits to myself, and speak to the issues as I see that they are impacted upon by God’s word.
What other issues do you see yourself being involved in?
I’ve started the whole question with the lonely and the dispossessed and the question of those in prison. There are many other issues which would come immediately to the front, and to take one obvious one, I think we Christians have a great deal to say about the question of the future of Australia and whether it should be a Republic or not.
I don’t intend to reveal to anyone present what my own views are about the Republic, but I do want to say that the debate we had two years ago was an indication of a deep malaise in the Australian soul. That we were not able to debate the subject at any depth was an indication to us of a theological problem – namely, we were not asking ourselves the question of God’s will for this nation. And secondly, of a historical problem. We have not taught our young people to think historically. We paid the price for that in an extraordinarily superficial debate.
[SBS] You mentioned earlier the issue of asylum seekers. How would you like to see the government deal with that issue differently? Would you like to see more seekers housed in community centres, for example?
I understand that in Britain, for example, this is done, and I think we have been too quick to assume that people should be simply put in detention centres, and we ought, if possible – and again I recognise that the Government has the carriage of this – but we ought, if possible, to incorporate people in the community while we’re sorting out their true status. I think we ought not to assume that an ‘illegal immigrant’ is necessarily illegal in the sense of having broken the law and not being here under proper conditions.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane has appointed a special ministry to work with non-English-speaking background communities. Is anything similar planned for the Anglican Diocese of Sydney?
That is a question for the future. Remember I’m the Archbishop-elect.
I believe that our people have done an enormous amount of work, particularly through Anglicare, in similar circumstances. I’m very much appreciative of the work being done by the Catholic Church. If you remember when the Timorese refugees came here in all their numbers, it was the churches together – not least our own Church – which really moved in for action and helped the refugees. We’ll always be ready to do that.
[ABC Radio] Would it be your view that a lot of the ambivalence to people in detention centres at the moment is related to the fact that so many of them, at the moment, are Muslims?
Do you mean, if I may return the question to you, ambivalence in our general community?
I have no way of knowing what the general community thinks about this. If it were true, if your suggestion were true, that would be a deep tragedy, and we’ve got to regard people as human beings first of all. And to Muslim people, we ought to extend the hand of friendship and courtesy towards them.
[The Australian] What will you expect your relationship to be with other churches?
The role of the Archbishop – and the role of any minister of God’s word – is one of justice to all and compassion to all. The other churches who, largely for historical reasons, are divided into different denominations – my present relationships with them are always cordial and usually very strong indeed. One of the virtues of the sort of Anglicans we are is that we are more comprehensive, perhaps, than some others, and more willing to mix and to have good fellowship with Presbyterians, Baptists, and many, many others like that. I expect these relationships, therefore, to continue and to be strengthened, and that is true also with churches with whom we have more profound disagreements.
I’ll never forget once taking – we had a man who came to our house who had nothing. He lived in and around our house for some time until he grew very sick. And I remember taking Bob down to see if I could find a bed for him overnight. And I have to say, I found no atheist hostels, but I found St Vincent de Paul’s running a hostel, and I found the Salvation Army running a hostel. And I can say how wonderful it was to commit Bob, who was really desperately needy, into the hands of St Vincent de Paul’s. That seems to me to be the sort of cooperation which is utterly good.
[ABC TV] Do you perhaps not have more in common with George Pell than Peter Carnley?
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Dr Pell; I am really looking forward to doing so, I must say.
The answer to the question is, I’m afraid, a bit like the economist’s: ‘on the one hand … on the other hand…’
There are deep connections between the three of us. We’re all Trinitarian Christians, for example. We all serve the same God, and we all give the Bible a very important place in our religion. These things have got to be remembered when we divide off from each other. There are deep similarities between all three positions.
Now, on some issues I would be closer, presumably, to Dr Pell, perhaps. On some issues I’d be closer to Dr Carnley. If we were to run a test on the whole thing we may find I was closer to Dr Carnley for historical reasons. But it remains to be seen, and I don’t know Dr Pell’s position closely enough to be able to answer properly.
On those issues involving Dr Carnley, do you see yourself embarking on a collision course with him?
Dr Carnley and I have been serving on the same Doctrine Panel of the Australian Church for 20 years. We’ve divided and collided many times. We actually like each other, as far as I can tell – I like him. We haven’t normally sat there and said, ‘Do we like each other?’ He calls me ‘Pete’, so I think that’s alright.
So, we have collided many times, and will continue to collide. This is necessary in my opinion. It is very necessary because we’re serious people. We believe very serious things, like the resurrection from the dead. We have strong commitments. This makes us a bit unusual in the Australian community, where we tend to sit loose to such serious matters. And when you have people who believe serious matters intensely, it’s not surprising you have division and collision.
Now, I would not expect Dr Carnley to step back from that one step, and I certainly, too – if we’re going to have differences of opinion, I will let him know and I will let the community know, because of the seriousness of the matters we’re talking about. Life and death matters, as far as we’re concerned. But I can assure you that all such communications will be carried on with courtesy and mutual respect.
[Marketplace] As you continue to disagree with Dr Carnley, are you particularly committed to staying within the Anglican Church of Australia?
Am I committed to staying in the Anglican Church of Australia? Of course.
I’m interested particularly on the basis of your disagreement with Dr Carnley. You’ll continue to disagree with him, but will you do that on the basis of staying in the Church together?
I will continue to disagree with him unless I can win him over, of course. We talk to each other in order to win each other over! So he may change his mind on all sorts of subjects.
As for staying in the Anglican Church, it never crossed my mind to leave the Anglican Church. I don’t know where that idea would come from.
[ABC Radio] Just getting back to the subject of detainees for a moment – your suggestion that they should perhaps be housed in the community while their applications are being processed. No doubt the authorities would suggest that would make it potentially very difficult to keep track of them. What would be your response?
Well, again, I’m not in charge of the Government. It’s easy to make suggestions while you’re not in charge, I have to acknowledge that. On the other hand, as I understand it, this is done elsewhere, and is done in various patterns elsewhere. Sweden and Britain come to mind.
The problem is it’s very hard to process applications properly when people are under the sort of stress they’re under behind barbed wire, with the problems of interpretation, the problems of no papers. There are all sorts of difficulties – you could imagine yourself coming into a foreign country and having escaped, perhaps, persecution on religious or other grounds in another country, and then to be placed in incarceration. Very difficult indeed to assess the rights and wrongs of the matter.
So we do need to put them in a situation where they can actually tell us their story, so that we can assess whether they should stay here or not.
I’m very impressed with a recent publication from the University of NSW Press, Borderline [holding book], which is a discussion of the whole matter. Peter Mares, I think, is the author. That’s the sort of discussion we need to have and need to read. It’s a serious discussion, and he’s a bit hard on Mr Ruddock, but perhaps Mr Ruddock needs to hear it as well.
What he does say about Mr Ruddock that I really like is that Mr Ruddock is always willing to answer the press. Good on him.
[2SM] Do you see a need to take any steps to attract people back to the Church?
Yes! That’s what I’m about.
Do you have any concrete ideas of how to do that?
Yes, because we’ve been doing it for a long time. What happened was that, I believe, the 1960s were the crucial decade for us, in which I think our numbers really took a significant battering – I can’t prove that, I suspect it’s true – particularly with a lot of what you’d call nominal Christians deciding that, in the end, they didn’t really believe, and drifting away. I think that happened throughout the West; it’s not just here.
Since about the mid-1970s, we have been engaged in very intensive evangelistic work, not in order to bring people to church. We’re not much interested in bringing people to church, actually. We’re interested in bringing people to Jesus, because Jesus is what we’re really on about – the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and the Lord Jesus. So our intention is to bring people to know the Lord Jesus.
You see, if we’re just on about people coming to church, where does that leave people who can’t come to church? Where does that leave people who are shut-ins, and other people like that?
What we’re interested in is people getting to know Jesus. Now we’ve been doing a lot of it. New ideas have to be found; new ways of doing this have to be found, but some of them are on the drawing board. We’re interested in pushing ahead, particularly in that area.
[The Sydney Morning Herald] Where do you stand on the current right of the Archbishop to override the wishes of the Synod? I’m looking particularly at Archbishop Goodhew’s decision not to assent to lay presidency after the Synod had voted in favour of it.
Thank you. The Archbishop, by law, has the right not to sign a document or an ordinance into existence. That is a good thing, but it has to be used rarely and with great caution. I believe in the Synod, you see – of course I would, why wouldn’t I. The immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies…
The right of veto has to be used, but it has to be used very rarely and in great circumstances where doctrinal truth is at stake. It can’t just be, ‘The Archbishop doesn’t like this sort of ordinance’, but it has to be a matter of great moment. And if that is the case I think, yes, I would use it.
If the Synod voted again to allow Lay Presidency to take place, would you give your assent?
That’s assuming that it might. I have not revealed to anyone what I might do under those circumstances, and I don’t intend to reveal it today, partly because I really am waiting to see what happens, and the circumstances in which this all does happen. And I’ll make my judgement then.
Though I have to say I am in favour of Lay Administration, you realise that, of course.
[ABC TV] Can I take you to the the matter of Reconciliation, Dr. Jensen? Would you be embarking on some plan to persuade the Prime Minister to say “Sorry”?
On the question of Reconciliation, the first point is to look to ourselves, rather than the Prime Minister, even, and to ask ourselves, ‘Are we reconciled, and what have we said in the realm of saying sorry?’
The problem is, we as ordinary Australian folk are living off the proceeds – someone once said, I’ve forgotten who it was again – “Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime.” There’s a lot of truth in that. And in a sense we are living off the proceeds of a crime. What we are enjoying in our community now is at the dispossession of others.
There’s no good saying, “Well, they were way back there, and all the people involved are now dead”, because we are living off the proceeds of it now. And those who suffered then, their direct descendants – many of them are suffering deeply now. I don’t know that we have sufficiently taken this into account as a community.
Now, my memory is that the Anglican Church was involved – at the General Synod in 1996 – in a formal statement of apology, of which I was certainly a member.
Now, the Prime Minister has his own views. I understand them and respect them. As a matter of fact, he is well thought out, and should never be despised for the views he holds. I think he is wrong, and I would indicate that to him. I think he has a view which, unfortunately, is not communal enough. I think his view is too individualistic and should be a recognition of the Christian understanding, which is that we belong together and we do things together and have a joint responsibility for things.
So what you’re saying is that he’s out of step.
I didn’t say that.
He’s out of step with the community – you as good as said it.
I didn’t say that, I don’t think. Out of step with the community?
Yes, on his view about reconciliation…
If you’re asking, how many people in the community agree with him or not, I have no idea.
See, it doesn’t worry me whether Mr Howard is out of step with the community. The question is, is he out of step with God?
Now, one of the difficulties of Archbishops and others is that they think they’re God and they think that whatever they tell the [Prime Minister] is what God says. That’s nonsense. Archbishops … are not mouthpieces for God, so to speak. What we, as a community of Christians [need to do] is to say to Mr Howard, read your Bible – which no doubt he does – but read your Bible and follow what God says to you, in your own conscience, in the Bible. So we’ve got to point him to Jesus in the same way as we point all our community to Jesus, and to reading the Scriptures, so that people can understand for themselves what God says.
So I’d say to Mr Howard, if he were here today, “Please Mr Howard, keep reading your Bible, keep saying your prayers, keep listening to God.”
[The Sydney Morning Herald] Dr Jensen, if a person that you knew to be a practising homosexual came and knelt at the rail and asked for Holy Communion, would you turn him or her away?
No, I would not.
In our Holy Communion service, there is the opportunity for confession and repentance. If a person came in that sort of situation, I would not know what was on their heart or soul, so I would not – Queen Elizabeth the First once said, “Don’t open windows onto men’s souls.” … It would be important, I think, not to.
On the other hand, it would be right also, at the conclusion of a service like that – and I have done this, and it is not a question of homosexuality, it’s a question of people’s pattern of life in all sorts of areas – I have taken a person aside and said, “Now I noticed that you received communion this morning. Can I ask you about what this means?” And a discussion like that will ensue.
[2GB] You spoke before about gambling. Could you elaborate on the way you see the State Government’s restrictions on gambling and on whether they are doing enough?
The restrictions on gambling seem to be all too few, that’s my problem.
Friends, if we look at the actual figures … of the amount of money spent on gambling in our country each year, the figures are startling and indeed frightening in some ways. Money is changing hands, not because work is being done, not because care is being lavished, but because people are risking money on events which have no bearing on the way we should be living.
Gambling is profoundly uncharitable. It is profoundly unloving to others in the community. You’ve just got to ask yourselves, why do people have gambling? Even at a low level, why do people have gambling in order to raise money for schools and so forth? Why can’t we simply be generous?
Now what I want to say, first of all to the church – because sometimes we’re implicated in this – but also to the community: Ought we not to be trying to be generous, like God?
You see, God is a very generous Person. He has generously sent his Son into the world, he has given us the Holy Spirit, and given us the Bible. He has done all sorts of things for us. He is a generous God.
And my point into the gambling situation is, why can’t Australians be generous and give as much money as they lose, to really good causes?
Once you start asking that question, you begin to unpack what the real problems are deep down in our hearts, which are things like greed and covetousness, which are the real sins deep down inside ourselves which make us behave in this uncharitable, unhelpful way in the community.
Now, that governments would actually help this along – and the Australian governments as a whole are far more lax in this than other governments are – that governments would actually help this and then make it part of our revenue is horrendous. It’s going to be very hard for us to turn the clock back.
But frankly, what is happening is that we who don’t gamble are being supported through the misery of people who are addicted to gambling. This is a major national difficulty, and we should have the courage to deal with it.
[Radio National] You’ve been described as a ‘radical conservative’. Do you want to give us your interpretation of what that tag means?
I’m not unhappy with it, I accept it.
Only a conservative could be radical. A conservative, to my mind, is someone who takes matters through to the foundations and is convinced about the foundations. In a postmodern world, this is rare. And indeed some of the flack we get, as a Church – with complaints about the way we behave and the way we speak – are simply a misunderstanding. We are very serious people, with a serious intellectual and moral agenda in a world where these things are treated somewhat as though they don’t matter as much, I feel.
Now, we have certain base convictions which are terrifically important to us. Having those base convictions frees us to be extraordinarily flexible about things that are of secondary nature. What we are seeing in the Anglican Church of Australia is either that we perish with our traditional convictions, or we grow and flourish by a willingness to lay our traditional things aside. We are still called the Anglican Church, which to the ears of so many migrants simply means ‘English Church’. But we’re not English; we are Australians, with an English heritage, perhaps.
So, we’ve got to be flexible about all that sort of thing in order to welcome strangers in. And we can be, as long as we’re conservative. If you’re not conservative, it’s very hard to be flexible.
[Bishop Paul Barnett] Theologically conservative?
I do mean theologically conservative. Thank you.
[The Sydney Morning Herald] Bishop Spong says that theological conservatism is going to sound the death knell for the Christian Church. What’s your reaction to a statement like that?
Did he actually use the word ‘conservatism’ in that quote, may I ask? Are you quoting precisely?
That’s not a direct quote, I am paraphrasing.
So you’re not quoting Dr Spong?
Not directly, no, but that is the line of his argument – that conservatism is moving…
I think, yes, I just think it’s very important that we get quotations right. Forgive me for saying so, beacuse I think one of the problems in our community, if I may say so, is words and language and the way in which we speak of and to each other. The folk in this room bear an awesome responsibility for language – for the good health of the English language and of human relationships, an awesome responsibility. And I think it’s very, very important to make sure that we’re quoting correctly, surely, in what we say.
I think Bishop Spong may be speaking about Fundamentalism when he says that. He is saying, I think, that Fundamentalism will sound the death knell of the church.
My view is that Bishop Spong’s brand of liberalism is parasitic on the Scriptures and on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that his brand of liberalism never won anyone to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here am I doing exactly the same thing that I’ve said that others do, so I’ll reverse that statement. I’ll say, it has won surely only very few people to the Lord Jesus Christ. His way into the future for Christianity is a way of disaster.
Christianity has a future if it remains true to the fundamentals, namely, the revealed word of God and Jesus Christ – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If it remains true to those things, as it has done for 2000 years, then it will survive and prosper. And I think we see the evidence for that in the churches which press those things, which are flourishing more than the liberal churches which I think are, in a sense, parasitic. That’s how I’d answer that question.
[ABC Radio] I think the word was ‘conservatism’, it was in the paper this morning. But I guess one of the things that it alludes to is that this particular type/way of leading people into faith is divisive. Do you think that there is only one particular way in order to believe in Jesus?
I said a moment ago that – I’ve used the word ‘serious’. I believe Dr Carnley and Dr Pell, to take two examples – I believe Bishop Spong, actually, is a very serious person. One of the difficulties we have as a community in dealing with such figures as these is that the general mood in the community is not of intellectual seriousness, but it is when you’re dealing with people like this.
Now, when you’ve got really big ideas and you’re firmly committed to them – whether you’re Dr Spong or Dr Carnley – then you’ll put them strongly, and division will occur. We ought not to be scared of division. We tend to think that division means a lack of love. On the contrary! I divide from people because I love them and I want to persuade them of my point of view.
Tolerance, which is so highly lauded in the community, is a virtue – it’s a Christian virtue, but it’s not the supreme Christian virtue. The supreme Christian virtue is love.
Is it like saying, ‘I love you, but you’re wrong’?
The New Testament has a wonderful word for this. It is ‘speaking the truth in love’, and too often we hold to one of those: speak the truth, come what may, or be loving, which is just mere milk-sop stuff. And we must speak the truth in love. That’s what we’re on about.
Do you think that some people might think that’s a little black and white?
I think some people might think anything. It doesn’t worry me what some people might think.
[SBS] Dr Jensen, you mentioned earlier that you’d like the Anglican Church to be more an Australian church, rather than just simply seen in Anglo terms. How can you see the Anglican Church appealing to a more culturally diverse group of Australians?
This is one of the key problems facing us as a Church, I would say, and I don’t think we’ve really grappled with it yet.
I can speak mainly about our own situation here, however. One of the really good things that has happened in the last 10 or 15 years here in our part of the world here – Dr Goodhew was very responsible for this, but many others as well – is that we’ve begun to set up non-English-speaking congregations, particularly amongst Chinese people. But we also have congregations representing Greek and other Mediterranean peoples, for example, and people from the Middle East. We heve a variety of congregations already. It may be even, perhaps, as many as 50 or 60 – I see Archdeacon Huard there, who’s largely responsible for this sort of thing – but it may be as many as 50 or 60 congregations of people around Sydney.
So we have begun to make progress in a very difficult way. We’e got to meet these people on their own terms. We’ve got to provide their language and their customs. Christianity can’t be culturally bound; it isn’t white-faced. So we’ve got to go out of our way in love to meet them and to do what they want to do, while being conservative about the gospel. That’s our business.
It is being done; much more needs to be done. If you look at our Synod and ask yourself, ‘How many Asian faces in the Synod?’, the answer is, ‘Far too few’.
So you feel it’s important, too, to encourage people from non-English-speaking backgrounds to consider ministry?
Yes. I’m very glad to see, even in this room at this moment, Mr Zac Veron, who comes from a non-English-speaking background, and is the Reverend Zac Veron.
Of course, if you come to Moore College, you will find many people of original non-English-speaking backgrounds. Zac speaks perfect English. The College is more multicultural than the Church is as yet. That’s good for the future, because I believe that in the future you will see a more multicultural Anglican Church in this part of the world.
[ABC TV] Can I just get an opinion from you on how you view this libertine city over part of whose population you are about to preside? Is it Sin City?
Is Sydney Sin City? Sydney is a great place. I am deeply a Sydney man, I have to say. I have lived elsewhere. I have lived in Oxford, but the whole time I was in Oxford I just wanted to get back to Sydney. I have to say that.
It is no more Sin City, in my opinion, than any other great metropolis. But it is Sin City in the sense that all great metropolises are.
The human heart – wherever you find it, whether it’s in rural parts or elsewhere – is a deeply sinful heart. And that sin expresses itself in various ways. And so our business, as Christian teachers and preachers, is to address the whole question of human misery and human suffering and human lostness, which is a result of sin, and to bring the message of the Lord Jesus Christ to people, so that they may have forgiveness of sins. I don’t think Sydney is any more Sin City than anywhere else, but that is what our agenda is.
[Australian Radio Network] Could you describe for us your personal feelings when the vote was finalised in Synod, and indeed what this appointment means for you personally, as you move out of a Moore College role and into this role?
Thank you very much.
Well, in the first place, I wasn’t expecting the vote to be taken and I wasn’t expecting it to go in the way that it did. So surprise was the first emotion, and shock. I was put on – by telephone, through [Bishop Barnett’s] good services – to the Synod, and I believe that they called out “Peter, Peter, Peter, Oi, Oi, Oi!”, which made me think of pigs.
I suppose I was numb – that’s a fair way of putting it. But I detected in myself, yesterday, grief, because I will be leaving the community of which I have been a part for 30 years. I’ll be leaving the community which I love and where some people love me even, and which I am deeply, deeply committed to. And I detect signs of grief appearing there.
On the other hand, I have been called to this by the clear call of my fellow Christians in the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, which I respect immensely, and I believe that God would not put me in this situation if he did not intend to support and strengthen me by his Holy Spirit. So I go forward with that confidence.
[Marketplace] What will you be able to do as Archbishop that you haven’t been able to do as Principal?
Well, it’s a different job. I suppose one of the things is that it will give more public opportunity to teach people the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, and to lay the claims of the resurrection on the table in our community.
One of the problems that we have, I think – and again, I am not blaming media for this – one of the problems we have is to say what our real agenda is. We seem to have a problem telling people about it. And I want to say to you that our real agenda is not some of the things that we seem to be talking about constantly, but really it is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, because that’s what brings us into conflict with the prevailing tendencies in our community. And that is a crucial life and death issue for the people in our community. That’s what we need to be talking to them about, and I think the Archbishop’s role will give me some opportunities to talk about that which were not present in the Principal’s role.
[The Sydney Morning Herald] You said a little earlier that tolerance wasn’t the supreme thing. There are elements within this Diocese, and also elsewhere in the church, who think that is the case and that perhaps you are more likely to divide opinions in Sydney and elsewhere. What would be your view of their concerns that perhaps you may divide Sydney from the rest of the country?
Thank you very much. If I may say so, there was a fair bit in the public run up to this whole business which played on perceived fears. I myself didn’t recognise myself, either in some of the good things that were said and some of the ill things that were said.
I don’t regard myself as a divisive person, personally. On the other hand, I am a deeply convinced and committed person. And from the earliest days of the New Testament church, that led to division. Division is not the worst sin or the worst problem. If you do not speak the truth in love, that is far worse than merely division.
Now, no one wants division. We all want to be unified. Unity is a very important New Testament concept, so I am not looking for division, by no means. But on the other hand, if we need to speak the truth, we will speak the truth. And we will speak the truth in love. And we’ll try to remain in good relationships with those from whom we differ. That’s how it must be.
If Christianity is to have any cutting edge in this country, then it’s got to be like that. Otherwise, the whole community will be simply smoothing the pillow of a dying church without the intellectual guts to stand up and speak the truth.
Now, we’re in the truth business, and as far as I’m concerned – whenever I get the opportunity – I want to be speaking the truth founded on God’s word and I want to challenge our community with the truth, if you’ll let me.