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The Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia is unique in international Anglicanism in that the majority of the diocese is Evangelical in nature, and committed to Reformed and Calvinist Theology.
The Diocese stretches from Lithgow in the west, the Hawkesbury River in the north and nearly to Bateman's bay in the South. It encompasses Australia's largest city as well as the city of Wollongong. It is, geographically, one of the largest Anglican dioceses in the world. Because of its historical link with the founding of Sydney and Australia in 1788, it is also one of the most wealthy Anglican dioceses in the world, rivalled probably only by the Diocese of New York.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Evangelicals within the diocese were concerned about growing Anglo-Catholicism and Modernism within the church and fought very hard to preserve Sydney's Evangelical nature. Out of this came the Anglican Church League, a body of evangelicals who worked within the politics of the diocese to further their evangelical cause. Their main aim was to ensure that the Archbishop would, at the very least, promote evangelical belief and theology over and above all other expressions of Anglican thinking.
The Sydney Diocese has changed somewhat since the turn of the century. A reliance upon outsiders for resources meant that many of the priests and bishops were trained and sourced from England. By 2004, however, Moore College, the official Theological college (seminary) for Sydney Anglicans, had in excess of 400 students studying for the ministry, many of whom would end up in a ministry outside the ecclesiastical and geographical boundaries of the Sydney Anglican Diocese.
Sydney's relationship with other Australian Anglican Dioceses has always been problematic. Because of Sydney's commitment to Evangelical theology and practice, many non-Evangelical Anglicans within the diocese have felt threatened and isolated. These include churches that are committed to an Anglo-Catholic style of liturical practice and more theologically liberal understandings of the Bible. The result of this has been a passive antagonism towards Sydney and a reluctance to allow Sydney-trained Priests into their own dioceses. This antagonism has been reciprocated by Sydney's own hard-line attitude towards any non-evangelical priest who wants to minister in Sydney.
Perhaps the most visible difference between Sydney and other Anglican dioceses has been its unwillingness to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood. This issue is an indicator of Sydney's difference in ecclesiology and theology to other Anglican dioceses. For many Anglo-Catholics and Modernist Anglicans, the central act of worship is the celebration of the Eucharist. Since the Eucharist can only been presided over by an authorised priest, the ordination of women allows equality in this area. Sydney has opposed women's ordination, but its Calvinist and Reformed theology places a much lower emphasis upon the Eucharist, which is celebrated far less often during church than in other dioceses. Moreover, the whole system of Catholic order is in the process of being questioned within the Sydney diocese, with the three-fold order of Deacons, Priests and Bishops being largely ignored in practice. Because of this, Lay presidancy is being seriously considered, whereby the Lord's Supper (an evangelical term for the Eucharist) could be celebrated by Deacons and even unordained church members.
Sydney Anglicans have often been described as Fundamentalist and sect-like by its opponents, but these terms are unhelpful in describing the differences. Fundamentalism, while taking the Bible at face value, has always been anti-intellectual. By contrast, Sydney Anglicans are encouraged to study and use their intellect so long as they continue to hold on to the central truths of the Evangelical faith. Moore College, the theological seminary for Sydney Anglicans, is staffed by evangelical academics who have completed post-graduate work at Oxford University, Cambridge University, Yale and Princeton among others.
Sydney Anglicans have also successfully resisted the influence of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement. Because evangelicals take the Bible, rather than personal experience, as the sole authority for faith and belief, Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians have not always been welcome within the church.
The Sydney Diocese has been shaped by the activities and beliefs of many influential men throughout the 20th century:
TC Hammond was an Anglican from Ireland who moved to Australia to become principal of Moore College during the 1930s. Hammond's influence was critical as he injected an intellectual Calvinism into his students. "In Understanding Be Men", a summary of Christian Doctrine, was his lasting legacy and is still in print today.
D Broughton Knox was Principal of Moore College from the 1950s until 1985. Along with Donald Robinson, Knox pioneered the study of "Biblical Theology" which then influenced their ecclesiology (study of the church). This intellectual rigour ensured that Moore College graduates were less likely to accomodate more Catholic practices during their parish ministry.
John Chapman was head of the Department of Evangelism during the 1960s and 1970s. He used his ability as a public speaker and evangelist to promote church missions in their local area. Evangelism therefore became a priority within the Anglican church at around the same time as church-going became less important to mainstream Australia. Chapman's influence ensured that Sydney Anglican churches were able to mobilise in Evangelism to prevent too many people from leaving.
Billy Graham, the American Evangelist, visited Sydney for a Crusade in 1959. Many who were converted at this crusade ended up studying at Moore College and entering the ministry, including Philip Jensen and Peter Jensen (below). The after effects of this crusade had a permanent influence upon Sydney Anglicans who therefore put a great priority upon preaching the Gospel and calling for a personal decision of faith amongst the listeners.
John Stott, the English preacher and former Rector of All Soul's, Langham Place, visited Australia many times during the 1960s and 1970s. He introduced Sydney Anglicans to Expository preaching as the main method of preaching sermons. The result of this is that many Anglican churches in Sydney are regularly exposed to a preaching style that works through Bible passages, explains them and applies them to everyday life. Rather than preaching topical or theological sermons, Sydney Anglican preachers are more likely to preach through verses, chapters and books of the Bible in a systematic manner.
Peter Jensen entered Moore College in the late 1960s and won the Hey Sharp prize for coming first in the ThL (Licenciate of Theology, the standard course of study at that time). Peter Jensen was appointed Principal of Moore College in 1985 and lectured in Systematic and Biblical Theology during that time. He was also a very engaging and gifted preacher, and was often seen at the annual Katoomba Christian Conventions. In 2002 Jensen was voted in as Archbishop of Sydney, and immediately called upon all churches in the Sydney Diocese to aim to reach 10% of their communities by 2012. While such a massive goal is likely to fail in secular Sydney, the result has been an unprecendented increase in church planting. At the time of this article's publication, it remains to be seen whether these new churches have actually resulted in increased attendance rates.
Philip Jensen, Peter's younger Brother, also won the Hey Sharpe prize the year after his brother. Philip has taken a much different route that Peter, becoming chaplain to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 1975 and Rector of St Matthias, Centennial Park, in 1977. Philip Jensen could be described as the "Ian Chappell" of Anglicanism - deeply conservative in his Calvinist theology yet radical and iconoclastic in his ministry style. Basing his University ministry around Expository preaching and Cold Turkey Evangelism, Philip Jensen and his "Campus Bible Study" revolutionised Student ministry. The result was large amounts of conversions, large student gatherings at UNSW, and the growth of St Matthias from a group of 20-30 in 1977 to well over 1000 by the mid 1990s. Bombastic, even rude, Jensen gained many followers and almost as many detractors. His work at UNSW included the creation of the Ministry Training Scheme (MTS) which took willing young men and women and trained them in practical ministry skills before then sending them off to Moore College. It was the exponential growth of the MTS scheme in other unversities and churches throughout the 1980s and 1990s that saw numbers at Moore College grow from around 150 in 1985 to over 400 in 2004. Many of these graduates are now Rectors of Anglican Churches in Sydney. Philip Jensen also authored the popular Two Ways to Live Evangelistic tract, and founded The Briefing, an insightful and sometimes overly polemical magazine that mixes conservative Evangelical and Calvinistic theology with intellectual rigour in a uniquely "Aussie" style. In 2003 Peter Jensen appointed Philip Jensen as Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, a move many thought of as nepotism. Media reports seem to indicate that the more traditional and "Anglican" congregation have been divided by Jensen's ministry there.