Monday, December 14, 2020

Australian Anglican Church on a path to schism over blessings of same-sex unions by national body

As ever, Sydney diocese stands firm on Bible teachings. Since they have a third of Australia's Anglican parishoners, they will always have the last laugh.

But their place in the Anglican communion is an odd one. Most of the Anglican churches in the Western world are so wishy-washy about doctrine that their claim to being Christian is dubious. The Sydney diocese is about the only place where the old Anglican faith lives on.

But they are not a bit abashed by that. Their seminary (Moore College) has hundreds of students and their churches too are pretty full. So their collections make them very robust financially as well.

And there is plenty of passion at their Synod, as they take doctrine seriously

You would think that other Anglicans would learn from them and return to the faith once delivered. In reality, however, it is the Devil's gospel that you hear from most Anglican pulpits

Bible references on homosexuality: Romans 1:27; Jude 1:7; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 19: 4-16; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Genesis 19:4-8

The conservative Anglican Diocese of Sydney has told its top personnel the church is "on a trajectory towards disintegration" over a decision to allow the blessing of same-sex unions.

The church's *national* appellate tribunal – a legal advisory body comprising three bishops and four lawyers – ruled last month that Anglican priests could give a blessing to same-sex couples who had already been married elsewhere.

The tribunal found it would not breach the church's fundamental declarations and principles, and it was up to each diocese whether they allowed such blessings. Many LGBTQ people of faith still want such a blessing from their bishop or priest even if they are not able to marry in their church.

Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies, who will retire in March, recently wrote to hundreds of bishops, wardens and school chaplains promising a showdown in coming months over the tribunal's decision.

He said the Bible and therefore the Anglican Church clearly taught that "the sexual union of two persons of the same sex was sin", and "to bless such a union would amount to the blessing of sin".

Dr Davies wrote: "While the world may deride our commitment to the standard of morality that God has established for his people, we have been called to holy and righteous living."

Bishop Michael Stead – a leading candidate to succeed Dr Davies as archbishop next year – warned "the majority opinion [of the tribunal] has put the Anglican Church of Australia on a trajectory towards disintegration".

Mr Stead said it was not feasible that clergy in the Newcastle diocese could be permitted to bless same-sex marriages while clergy in the Sydney diocese would be disciplined for such an action. He compared it to the invention of rugby in 19th century England which eventually led to the establishment of association football.

"Just as there are different codes in Australia which are all called 'football', there will be different versions of the Anglican Church of Australia, which have nothing in common except the name," he wrote in a letter seen by The Sun-Herald which was attached to Dr Davies' communique.

"While some might applaud the judicial innovation of the appellate tribunal for finding a way to enable an already fractured church to remain together, they have in fact entrenched separation and division. This decision has destroyed the rationale for a national church."

Late last month following the tribunal's decision, a retired bishop in Victoria's Wangaratta diocese, John Parkes, blessed the marriage of retired clergymen John Davis and Rob Whalley using a liturgy the diocese approved in 2019.

In response to reports of the blessing, Dr Davies issued a further statement last week saying it was untenable to have some members of the church "purporting to declare God's blessing" on same-sex marriages.

"It would be naive to think that mutually contradictory views on same-sex marriage can co-exist within our national church," he said. "To pursue this course will not bring healing but will only lead to a collapse in the fellowship that binds us together."

The issue will be debated at the Anglican church's national General Synod in 2021.

Australia and Taiwan in sensitive trade talks

Australian officials have been talking with Taiwan about boosting trade between the two economies as the Morrison government looks for alternative markets for billions of dollars worth of exports hit by China’s trade strikes.

Officials from the Department of Foreign and Affairs and Trade have held meetings with counterparts in the Taiwan government in recent weeks to discuss more trade opportunities.

While the Australian government has at this stage ruled out striking a free trade agreement with Taiwan, the two countries are discussing options to boost exports into the self-governed democracy of 23 million people.

Any move to enter a formal economic agreement with Taiwan could further inflame tensions with China, which has claimed sovereignty over the island state since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Former resources minister Matt Canavan said Australia should be planning a free trade deal with Taiwan.

"I think it would make absolute sense to finalise a trade agreement with Taiwan. It is a close friend of our country and a very important trading partner," Senator Canavan said.

"We have a strong presence in the commodity markets with Taiwan including coal and iron and ore. But we could no doubt increase trade of branded products and services including beef, beer and tourism."

Asked whether there was any risk of further angering Beijing by striking a free trade agreement with Taiwan, Senator Canavan said Australia "should not allow another country to dictate who we should finalise agreements with".

Senator Canavan's call for a Taiwan trade deal is the second within Coalition in three months after Liberal MP Ted O'Brien said in September that Australia should negotiate an agreement.

“If we’re serious about diversifying our economy, how can we not pursue deeper economic relations with Taiwan?" Mr O'Brien told The Australian Financial Review.

Other Coalition MPs are privately sympathetic to negotiations with Taiwan but concerned it may further inflame tensions at a time of high sensitivity with Beijing. The relationship between Beijing and Canberra is in turmoil after diplomatic disputes over the coronavirus, national security and human rights triggered trade strikes on half-a-dozen Australian industries this year.

China dominates Australian trade accounting for more than 30 per cent or $153 billion in exports annually. But Taiwan is Australia's sixth largest export market and surged by 20 per cent in 2018-19 to $10 billion, largely on the back of coal, iron ore, natural gas and copper exports.

While resources growth has been strong, consumables have historically been undermined by tariffs that make them less competitive against countries that have economic co-operation deals with Taiwan, including New Zealand and Singapore.

New Zealand, a competitor to Australia in the beef and wine sectors saw its exports to Taiwan rise by 22 per cent in the year after the deal was signed.

Australia walked away from plans for a free trade agreement with Taiwan in 2018 after China warned any deal would hurt relations between Beijing and Canberra.

Taiwan was on a list of economies the Coalition government was considering for bilateral trade deals but in a series of meetings over 2017 and 2018, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi conveyed directly to then-foreign minister Julie Bishop that China was opposed to Australia boosting formal ties with the government of President Tsai Ing-wen.

Sources from both governments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions, confirmed that talks have been taking place, but insisted they were standard meetings as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Because APEC is branded as a "meeting of economies", it provides the opportunity for Australia and Taiwan to talk about trading opportunities without recognising Taiwan as a country.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Australia in November against taking a stand on Taiwan, accusing it of interfering China’s internal affairs, despite the Morrison government remaining publicly restrained on the issue.

Labor senator Kimberley Kitching said Australia had for a long time been "too reliant on one country as a destination for our exports".

"Labor has been calling on the government to diversify our trade portfolio and identify new markets and opportunities for Australian exporters," she said. "As part of this, of course we should be looking to Taiwan, and ways we can increase the two-way trade between our countries."

Liberal plan to change federal voting laws may have crossbench support

Crossbenchers could support a controversial proposal from government MPs on the influential electoral matters committee which would change the way Australians vote in federal elections.

Australians have had to number every box on federal election ballots since 1918, when the rise of the Country party (later the Nationals) split the conservative vote. Prime minister Billy Hughes introduced the change, after Labor emerged the winner from split Nationalist-Country party contests.

The recommendation to shift to optional preferential voting was made in the joint standing committee into electoral matters (JSCEM) report into the most recent election. It does not have the support of Labor or the Greens but is supported by James McGrath, a Queensland Coalition senator, who wants the government to make numbering every box optional in a move to “maximise voter choice”.

And he may have some support to make it law – if the government chooses to adopt the reform.

Both Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, and Pauline Hanson, who controls two votes in the Senate, have told Guardian Australia they support the shift from compulsory to optional preferential voting, saying it will put the power back in voters’ hands.

“Most of us wish for a single choice and this makes such a choice possible,” Griff said.

“I do get that minor parties and candidates will see this as potentially disadvantaging them, but the reality is, that an OPV vote best represents what the voter wants.”

Hanson, who missed out on the lower house seat of Blair in the 1996 election, despite a strong first preference vote, also supports optional preferential voting.

“One Nation would strongly support abolishing full preferential voting which would kill off the Labor/Greens preference deal and restore the voters’ right to simply put a ‘1’ in the box,” she said.

Hanson said she would also ban how to vote cards, and instead supported reforms where interested voters could download a party’s recommendations for preference flows, from party websites.

Under the current Senate numbers, the government needs three more votes to pass legislation.

Labor and the Greens issued dissenting reports objecting to the recommendation, with Labor MP and committee member Milton Dick telling the Guardian Labor would fight any attempt to change federal preferential voting “tooth and nail”.

“The way we have elected people to the federal parliament has worked well for the past 100 years,” he said.

“There has been no evidence to suggest we should change how we elect MPs in our country.

“Compulsory preferential voting maximises the voters’ decisions in who they want to represent them and Labor will fight this tooth and nail to make sure there is consistency in our voting system.”

The Greens objected to the recommended change and defended compulsory preferential voting as increasing the diversity of MPs in the parliament.

JSCEM usually operates with bipartisan support for its recommendations, as it oversees how Australians vote as well as the electoral process itself, and whether any changes to the system need to be made.

McGrath, the committee chair, has been a longtime supporter of liberalising Australia’s systems, including how we vote. He did not respond to requests for further comment.

The official committee report justified the move after detailing the levels of informal voting at the last election. New South Wales, the last state to run elections with optional preferential voting, recorded the highest rate of informal votes, with some suggestion that confusion between “just vote 1” state election orders and “number every box” for the federal election was to blame.

Queensland made the shift to compulsory preferential voting before the 2015 election, citing confusion between the state and federal systems, although the move was seen as helping the then-minority Labor government win more seats despite a weaker primary vote.

Australia is among the only democracies in the world to force preferential voting, which rather than the first past the post vote of most systems, can see a vote transferred in order of the voter’s preference, to another candidate, in close contests.

The 2019 federal election saw both major parties return their lowest primary votes in decades, with Labor recording its worst first-preference result since 1931 and the Liberal party seeing its worst result since 1946.

The Coalition won the election on a slight swing to it on two-party preferred terms (once preferences were allocated) of 1.7% – enough to win government, with a one seat net gain.

Pandemic exposes global differences - and how Australia rose above most others

Nine months ago, officials in Canberra were poring over geospatial maps of Australia. They were identifying every major cold storage facility and ice-skating rink. All indications were that the hospitals and morgues would soon be overflowing. The Home Affairs officials were looking to secure places to stack the corpses.

About the same time, police chiefs convened to plan for the possibilities of a breakdown in social order and outbreaks of civil unrest, a fact that Peter Dutton hinted at publicly this week.

Instead of the official projection of a worst-case scenario of 150,000 dead, Australia has suffered 908 deaths in the pandemic to date. Every country, every state faced the same fateful moment of awesome responsibility and awful choice. The pandemic struck the countries of the world like an avenging angel, wreaking havoc on the unready and the uncaring, the slothful and the prideful, and re-ordered the world.

After an uncertain start, Australia ultimately made the right choices. Its leaders, yes, but also its people. The pandemic was a severe test of leadership, and of nation-state capability, but also of social cohesion and public culture. The whole of the people had to accept some personal inconvenience for the common good. In successful countries they did; in failed ones they did not.

And the countries that met the public health test had a much better chance of meeting the economic test.

Australia's responses have elevated it into a small elite of competent countries. "Our system has performed impressively and that puts a spring in your step and makes other countries interested in you," says the director of the Lowy Institute, Michael Fullilove. "And that's a positive. The prestige of smaller, well governed countries has risen, mainly in our part of the world – Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, South Korea, Australia."

The most dramatic effects have been in the biggest powers. "Nations cohere and flourish on the belief that their institutions can foresee calamity, arrest its impact and restore stability," Henry Kissinger said in April. "When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed."

One of the foremost, shockingly, is the United States itself. The virus exposed its divided political system as not just an entertaining foible but as a deep national liability. Political division paralysed policy. In many countries politics is regarded as a sport, a game. In a crisis, we now learn, politics literally is a matter of life and death for the people and of national destiny for the country.

Even today, nine months on, the US cannot agree to stop the needless mass death nor agree on fiscal policy. With the daily death toll outstripping the 9/11 count, the US Congress remains deadlocked in negotiations for a second economic stimulus. It negotiates, sometimes month to month, sometimes week to week, the funding to "keep the government open". The asinine has become the norm.

The pandemic has broadly affirmed the effectiveness of the nation-state and social cohesion in the East Asian countries, the Confucian cousins of Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. All have controlled the virus effectively, and all have demonstrated relatively strong economic resilience. Once China got over its initial bungling of the virus, it, too, has joined the other Confucian countries.

Europe, on the other hand, has been unimpressive overall. The European picture broadly is one of ineffective governance and social complacency. Even the better European performers, such as Germany, have had a death rate per capita eight times worse than Australia's. And the worst, such as Italy, have suffered a death rate four times worse again. A shambles, in other words.

Neither democracy nor autocracy can claim an ideological victory. There have been good and bad performances in each camp.

Democratic Taiwan is a showcase, the lowest death rate per capita of any credible reporting country. Yet Communist Vietnam also has performed just as well in controlling the plague and weathering the downturn. There have been questions about Vietnam's official casualty numbers, yet independent signs such as a Reuters check of funeral parlours suggests they're truthful.

The clear-cut winners are effective governance, centrist politics, scientific expertise and social trust. The more a country had, the better it did. Everything else was distraction or destruction. It seems pretty obvious now. It's a shame of historic proportion that it has so far cost 1.5 million people their lives to prove again what human civilisation had already learned. And largely forgotten.




1 comment:

Paul said...

So is this a reboot of the "First-past-the-post" voting push, which I can recall the Whitlam gov. wanting to implement, in the knowledge that it would exploit the Liberal/Country Party relationship to ensure the Liberals would never get a direct mnajority?