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Electing a new Archbish: diversity

by on June 14, 2013

I don’t know either of the candidates for the election much at all. But I do have a concern, a criterion if you like, which I think is key to deciding between them. It’s a missionary concern.

I live and minister in a massively diverse part of Sydney. Most of the people who live here are culturally nothing like either of the candidates for archbishop. Nothing like me either, for that matter.

Our region, which we Anglicans call the Georges River, has seen its churches crumble and close down. And the big issue, the weakness which has been their undoing, is lack of diversity.

The churches have been fairly anglo in areas that are very different from that. But more importantly, they haven’t managed to adapt, haven’t been open to the diversity which would be needed in the church were it to reach the local community. They’ve wanted things to be done the way that works for them, not in ways that work for their (ethnically diverse) neighbours.

So the churches have not reflected their local culture. They’ve remained mono-cultural and become increasingly disconnected. And died.

Diversity is the issue for the future of mission in the Georges River region. And in the whole of Sydney, which is becoming more and more multicultural. It’s the life and death issue for our mission. Can we find different ways of doing and being church that connect with our neighbourhoods? Can we bridge the massive and widening culture gap between inside and outside the churches? Are we willing to take risks, willing to experience failure, to find ways forward? Are we willing to change our culture? And keep changing it as the population changes?

I remember hearing Peter Lin, from Fairfield, being asked what approach did he try in reaching out to that area. His answer? “We tried everything, Everything we could think of. Much of it didn’t work. Some things did.”

That’s the mindset I’m talking about. I am a missioner, these questions are a big deal for me. So here’s my question:

Which of the two candidates is going to more effectively encourage diversity in ministry and mission approaches?

He’s the man multicultural Sydney needs as Archbish.

What sort of track record do these guys have in this area?

I’m open to people posting answers in the comments.

Narrow = death. Diverse = future.

From → General

  1. Matthew Jefferson permalink

    I can speak for Rick as a member of his parish for the last 12 years. Rick certainly does have a track record in cross cultural mission and ethnic diversity. As an example, he realised that one of the main people groups inside his parish was Japanese and has led the building of a Japanese congregation and staffed it with ex missionaries from Japan. He has done a similar thing with 2 Asian congregations that he has established, one inside his parish and another at Macquarie. From a mission perspective planting new congregations is absolutely on Rick’s agenda. Having been involved in 2 of them personally, (which were targeted at new areas and age groups) they are enthusiastically led from the front and supported by Rick. There is further endorsement on

    • Thanks Matthew. It’s nice to have some info.

      However I’m not sure that creating monocultural congregations was exactly what I had in mind when I was asking about encouraging diversity.

  2. Matt Patto permalink

    JH – Have you read UNREACHED, by Tim Chester?

    • No, why?

      • Matt Patto permalink

        I’m reading it at the moment. Your post reminded me of some of the themes in it. Primarily it’s about reaching lower-socio-economic people groups, and the “working class”, but I still think you’d find it helpful. It’s rich with missional insights…

      • Thanks Matt, I’m quite a fan of Chester’s stuff. I’ll look out for it.

        His gospel course ‘The world we all want’ is great, and his book ‘Good news to the poor’ is well worth reading. Of course Total Church is by now a classic.

        btw do I know you Matt? (sorry hate asking that question)

        On 14 June 2013 11:14, Canterbury Church Plant

      • Matt Patto permalink

        And by the way – I fully agree with your original post, and the need for the new AB to take this into serious consideration, not just to tick the box “Yes I know that Sydney is multi-cultural”

  3. Matt Patto permalink

    Yep – from MTC days. I’ll add you on FB

    • Oh, that Matt! Nice to hear from you. Hope you guys are travelling well. Glad to hear you’re getting into some Chester. A prophet for the evangelical church for our times!

  4. brettwhall permalink


    YbiC, Brett.

    • One out of two of my thoughts hit the spot, then. That’s better than my normal average…

  5. Jonathan, one other thing to know is that Rick grew up in Towradgi, near Wollongong, right near the Fairy Meadow migrant hostels. His experience in public school was of great diversity among the many migrants who had come to the Illawarra to work in the mines, port, steelworks and all the other opportunities that they turn their hands to.

    • Thanks Sandy that’s helpful to know about. How has that translated into a heart for reaching out across cultures in his ministry? It’s a genuine question – I don’t know Rick.

  6. I think you need a conclave and white smoke – or better still a woman candidate!

    • Nice to have some catholico-feminist input into this discussion!

  7. Glenn of course has been part of starting, re-planting and re-potting Chinese congregations in his Northern Region.It is interesting that among those supporting Glenn several overseas-born, ESL pastors have been adamant that he is the best person for the role (Artarmon and Kogarah for example).

    • Thanks for commenting, Michael. Your second point is perhaps more persuasive than your first. Good to know that Glenn has won the trust and respect of ESL pastors. I wonder if the same is true of Rick? (I’m afraid we can’t avoid comparisons, can we)

      Planting monocultural Chinese congregations does get you some cred in the diversity stakes. But not a heap, I’m afraid.

  8. I’ve been to, to see what they say about all this. They have a page on this, and I think what it says is seriously problematic.
    I may post on this shortly.

  9. Philip Griffin permalink

    Jonathan, I gather you have in mind the model John Woo championed a few decades ago in planting a multi-ethnic multicultural congregation in Campsie. He had real issues with monocultural congregations. I’d encourage you to talk about this with Bruce Hall and whoever becomes the next archbishop. In my view, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to one specific cultural group, provided the congregation that at least at first will be dominated by that group seeks to reach out in turn to other cultural groups. Ray Galea has that model at Rooty Hill, and I note he is supporting Rick. You may find it helpful to talk with him.

    • Thanks Philip, you make some good points. You seem to want to know where we’re coming from on this multicultural thing.

      I don’t know John Woo. We have been mainly influenced by the practices of another church planter, Paul of Tarsus, who planted multi-ethnic congregations across the Roman empire. He said he was doing it because he wanted communities that demonstrated the new reality: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’

      The time when Peter decided to do some targeted ministry for Jews only, Paul called him on it in public. It was a gospel issue.

      Having said that, Philip, I think there is a place for specific ethnic ministries. Especially when language is a factor. You’re quite right: nothing wrong with it. I am very happy to see more of these ministries starting up, such as te one at Punchbowl.

      However, the focus of my post was a bit different: diversity in our churches and their ministries. I’m saying that’s essential for our churches, if we’re to have a future in Sydney. And a mono-cultural church, whatever you think of it, is not a very good example of diversity.

      It’s what we’ve done in the past, but it can’t be the focus in the future. The maths is against it: 100+ cultural groups in our city; trained gospel-workers from perhaps 10 cultural groups available our Diocese, another maybe 10 guys willing to specialise outside their own culture: 80-plus groups left unreached. = lose Sydney.

      So we think it’s a mission-imperative, as well as a gospel-imperative: learn to do multicultural, learn diversity.

      Hope that clarifies where we’re coming from.

  10. Chris S permalink

    mate I have no strong interest in this discussion in terms of being out of Syd (and Aus) and in truth I know neither candidate at all (in fact not sure I have met either). I don’t have a strong preference – they both seem to have plusses and minuses to me. But I would say I find it interesting Ray G back’s Rick Smith – simply because I know Ray well and how multicultural his church is (was there for a year). But MBM is very ‘recent trad Sydney’ in some ways I think, at least in terms of theological emphasis (although in others perhaps not so much)..
    Just one thing I couldn’t resist (real reason for posting) – you know well that Paul of T did indeed support targeted cultural ministry too in principle – Galatians 2:8-10. Just didn’t like it when fellowship became intentionally mono-cultural, because that gives the lie to justification in Christ. 🙂

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