July 11, 2005 | Graham

Primate monkeys around with industrial policy

How’s this for a variation on pundits predictions? If I had blogged on it I would have predicted that Philip Aspinall would become Primate of Australia, so can I count it as a successful prediction even though I never got around to committing a word to electrons?
It was obvious. The Archbishops of Sydney and Brisbane were the only real contenders, and no-one was going to back Jensen from Sydney. (Actually I was partly wrong there, almost half the bishops did, but the rest of the numbers were Aspinall’s way.)
The retiring primate, Peter Carnley had been Archbishop of Perth, and Perth’s new Archbishop, Roger Herft was only just into the job and the archdiocese couldn’t sustain another primate so soon. So Herft wasn’t a contender. Melbourne is soon to be vacant and Adelaide is vacant as a result of the ousting of Ian George because of his handling of sexual abuse cases, so no offering from those cities either. So, by a process of elimination Jensen and Aspinall were the only two possibilities. Jensen is too low church, opposed to women clergy and homosexuals, and with an interesting twist on who should be able to consecrate communion, so that left Aspinall.
But Aspinall is only 45, and you wouldn’t want him being primate for the next 20 years. But there’s a good Anglican fix for that – make the appointment for 2 years only and propose a review of the whole situation so that you push the problem off into the future, and don’t embarrass the new primate too much. Not that this solution was purpose built for Aspinall, it could have equally well catered for Jensen if he had won.
Does this sound like a church in good shape? The successor wins by default. The field is limited partly because of scandals. The most successful candidate, at least in terms of church attendance, finances and influence, loses because of deep spiritual and theological schisms. And everyone has such faith in the decision they want it to only last for two years. In these circumstances, what should the successful candidate do?
Take on the government on the first issue that looks vaguely popular – IR reform – to divert attention from your fundamentally weak position. That might be good short-term public relations, but I doubt whether it is in the long-term interests of the church. Not only is it a failure to acknowledge that the primary job of the primate is to resurrect the church, but it reinforces the view of many church-goers that the church is more interested in posturing in areas of social policy where it has no expertise, than in preaching the gospel, where it hopefully has pre-eminent expertise.

Posted by Graham at 10:46 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Religion

1 Comment

  1. “Take on the government on the first issue that looks vaguely popular – IR reform – to divert attention from your fundamentally weak position.”
    At best this is a glib, superficial analysis echoing Costello’s smug dismissal of Aspinall’s comment on IR reform. Is Costello jockeying to keep his name up there as the main contender for the PM’s job? Or, is he hoping to detract from Aspinall’s credibilty in the eye’s of the public and prevent his comments giving more credence to the opposition of the unions? I’d bet even money each way.
    I’m not a follower of religion, nor am I affected by any new IR reforms (being self-employed), but I would like to feel that the majority of my community is getting a fair deal. I share Aspinall’s reservations that this is the case in the face of the Government’s fundamentalist position on IR. It is interesting to note that the opposition of the unions is resulting in a more careful application of reform as revealed in the weekend advertisements put out by the federal government.
    Pastoral care of community is surely an important task of all religions. Where this is seen to be under threat it becomes imperative to speak out. Aspinall, like Costello and Howard, has recourse to the advice of experts where his own knowledge is not up to the task.
    The problem for Aspinall, and other religious leaders, is that they are saying too little, too late about many matters of concern to all Australians. Who else is going to fill the vacuum created by the disappearance of moral and ethical standards from our parliament?

    Comment by David Walker — July 12, 2005 @ 5:07 pm

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