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Which archbishop will help us reach multicultural Sydney?

by on July 15, 2013

Nobody seems to have been able to answer the question we raised here about the archbishop nominees leading us into diversity in ministry. Hundreds of people read the post, no one had an answer to offer.

So I decided to investigate further. I put a question to the two support teams for the archbish election: to and The question was:

Is your nominee committed to the Homogeneous Unit Principle which had such a role in our diocese over the large generation? Is that his preferred approach to cross-cultural ministry?

This is a key question for Sydney: Homogeneous Unit Principle – HUP – means creating churches where people are divided up on the basis of race or culture: a church for Chinese, a church for Greeks, a church for Vietnamese etc. HUP is a major way we have fought against diversity in our churches, and enabled them to keep difference at bay, over the past 30 years. If one of our leaders is going to further strangle diversity in an already narrow scene, it’s likely to be through pushing HUP.

There’s a time and place for monoethnic ministry: especially where there are language needs. But overall, our adoption of this policy has been directly involved in the disaster that has engulfed our churches in Sydney’s large multi-ethnic heart. Until we move on from it, there will be no multicultural future for us.

= no future.

So I think it’s a key question – are we going to have more of this failed policy, or find a more hopeful, more powerful and more inclusive approach to ministry?

The team told me to contact Glenn with my question. I did. Glenn replied immediately, saying he wasn’t campaigning, and didn’t want to take questions. Fair enough. Strangely reassuring actually. But left me no wiser.

Back to the team who once again replied promptly. They don’t have easy access to Glenn to get answers. (He’s not campaigning, remember). But they tell me they think Glenn is not a massive fan of HUP, and is open to a range of different approaches to reaching multicultural Sydney. That he is most likely to back local churches in whatever mission approach they are trying. OK. Sounds good.

The whyrick people never bothered to reply. They’ve had over a week. Hard to know how to interpret this. Certainly left me with a bad impression.

So I investigated further.

It seems Rick has responded to the multicultural population in his area by introducing mono-ethnic ministries, setting up homogeneous ethnic units. The old approach. What he hasn’t done is attempted to incorporate these cultures into his existing congregation/s. In the absence of an actual response, it seems Rick has voted with his feet for HUP. What you do is a good indicator of what you believe in.

I investigated further.

I checked, they have a page on muliticultural ministry, and in a video Rick talks about how important he thinks it is. They use the word multicultural over and over again. Their examples of Rick’s commitment to multicultural? The monoethnic ministries he set up at Naremburn. Read those two sentences again, see if you can spot the problem.

It seems someone at whyrick doesn’t really understand the difference between multi-ethnic church and mono-ethnic  church. I’m not quite clear on who that someone is. It could be the whyrick guys. It could be Rick himself. Either way, it leaves me with the impression that their real commitment is to using the word multicultural, hoping to make an impression on people like me. Can’t see any actual substance there.

On the basis of my investigation, I’ve formed an impression. I could be wrong – remember the whyrick guys never responded to my question.

And remember that I’m writing as a missioner. I have no involvement in the political manoeuvrings going on around the election. I’m interested in mission. I think what’s good for mission is good for Sydney and for the diocese. That’s my angle on the whole thing.

But it seems to me that Rick  Smith will probably encourage the continuation of the HUP approach. This I think is a cause for concern. People are talking about generational change, but I’m not sure that Rick is going to give us that.

And it seems that Glenn will probably encourage diversity in ministry and mission approaches. Support people trying new things.

On that basis, I think Glenn Davies is more likely to be the man to help us find a future. To facilitate real generational change.

Does that all make sense? Please correct me if I have it wrong.

Glenn D will not be commenting, it seems. I invite Rick or his supporters, or Glenn’s, to comment.

From → General

  1. Michael Kwan permalink

    Hi J, have you written more about the HUP in a previous post or elsewhere? I need to be informed better. Interested in your views especially opinions and evidence as to why it’s a “disaster”.

    It interests me because I’m involved with creating lots of HUs in a growing university ministry context (faculty groups, international students, ethnic groups, undergrads/post-grads, interest groups, year groups etc) under the umbrella of the evangelical union with common goals and doctrinal basis with regular physical “gathering points” to express our unity in Christ.

    A few things I’m thinking through: is the desire for a diverse/multicultural group itself a homogeneous unit? Are gender ministries and aged-group ministries themselves homogeneous units?

    Declaration of interest (!) I’m not Anglican, don’t have a role in voting for the AB election. Glenn taught me at College and love him to bits and was in the same year as Rick and love him to bits too. Just want to keep growing the ministry at Sydney University!


    • Alan Wood permalink

      But Michael, in my time (which was your time too) the eu wasn’t a church. So I think there’s too much disanalogy for your objection to work. And OTOH, and more importantly, the central gathering – the ekklesia-ish bit – of the sueu was always the public meeting. Organization, mission, support etc used other groups (usually faculty based, but there was one h.u.), but we all got together on Tuesday or Wednesday (and at Ancon). We were keen to integrate Ben Lim and his guys because they were Christian brothers and sisters, and we shouldn’t be divided on ethnic lines. So, in the ways eu was like a church, we didn’t act like a h.u.p. church. As you’ve said, you set up groups that are tailored in order to bring people to a larger group that is mixed. That’s using “culture” as a tool to reach people, not as the basis of Christian community.

      Archie Poulos told us at college that it was ok to cater to ethnicity, but not to pander to ethnicity. I seem to recall a time-to-maturity as well, but I’ll stop verballing him now.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michael. I’m not sure if I have written much about this. You could try putting ‘homogeneous’ in the search window of the blog.

      In terms of theology, the theology that pushes us to uncomfortable diversity is about church. You’d need to be a bit creative to apply it wisely in a student group context. Nice to hear about your ‘regular physical “gathering points” to express our unity in Christ, though.

      is the desire for a diverse/multicultural group itself a homogeneous unit?

      This was perhaps not the clearest part of your comment. Maybe you’d like to explain your thought?

  2. I don’t know why your question did not get an answer through the formal streams…although there have been lots of questions!
    So here are some thoughts….
    It is incorrect to assume “Rick Smith will probably encourage the continuation of the HUP approach”. Rick has never applied a purely HUP approach to any ministry but like everyone does, he has used and encouraged (in his own church and throughout Sydney) a variety of approaches to reach people where they are at. It is clear to rick as it is to us all, no one approach is going to work. There are no silver bullets.

    A varied approach is needed and really, this is what we all use – the Sydney norm has been to use targetted approaches where certain people might feel most comfortable in a congregation but everyone is welcome.
    Let me use Campbelltown as an example. At 8am I wear robes and we have organ music and formal liturgy. Everyone is welcome and we have our fair share of under 50s but we expect the over 50s to predominate. At 6pm I wear jeans and my new trendy jumper ($10 at target) we have lots of loud music and no formal liturgy (we hide it so they can’t see it). Everyone is welcome and we have our fair share of over 50s but the young adults predominate.
    At Naremburn Cammeray there is a Japanese congregation where the language spoken is Japanese. There are many Japanese but also other ethnicities represented and in my time a smattering of people who come to encourage but knew little Japanese. All welcome to hear the Gospel and serve.
    At NAAC there are multiple congregations that were set up to reach the increasing number of Asian people in the Willoughby area but anyone was welcome. From the outset they were never HUP in policy or reality.
    Rick has said and wants people to know that in order to make progress you have to give things a go an you will probably make mistakes.
    Rick has said time and again, we need to pray, pray, pray and try things. His philosophy has been “Same old things reach the same old people. New things, reach new people!”
    HUP is not a silver bullet and not something he is advocating for. Rick is is open to a range of different approaches to reaching multicultural Sydney and has runs on the board in this regard.

    • Thanks for commenting Nigel. A few clarifications.

      What you call a ‘varied approach’, i.e ‘targetted approaches where certain people might feel most comfortable in a congregation but everyone is welcome.’ That’s what the rest of us mean when we say HUP.

      I’m glad you didn’t write ‘but everyone is made to feel welcome.’ Because that’s the thing about targetted approaches to church: the non-targetted people (i.e. everyone else) generally feel less welcome. Let’s be realistic about this.

      So when you say Rick is all for a varied approach, and a varied approach is what we all use, and the sydney norm is a targetted approach – what I hear is: Rick is all for HUP.

      Maybe I misunderstood?

      I hear you that Rick is not openly advocating for HUP. Nor, it seems for any other approach in particular. In the absence of a clearly stated view about multicultural church, I think Rick’s own ministry choices probably speak louder than your assurances do. As you say, the issue is ‘runs on the board’. And Rick’s ‘varied approaches’ seem to be HUP approaches.

      You say ‘At NAAC there are multiple congregations that were set up to reach the increasing number of Asian people in the Willoughby area’

      Could you explain for our readers, what is NAAC, and how does it and ministry in Willoughby relate to Rick Smith?

      • Hi J,
        My understanding of an HUP church is those in which all the members are from a similar social, ethnic or cultural background. That is not the case in any of Rick’s churches. HUP implies exclusion and such churches are often accused of racism or classism. That is certainly not the case with Rick. All are welcome and included in the ministry if they want to serve God in any congregation.

        So let us be careful around HUP thinking. Tim Chester helpfully writes “Yet most churches are homogenous to some extent. People choose churches on the basis of worship-style, denominational allegiance, theological emphasis and even cultural background. As soon as you choose to operate in one language you have created an homogenous group.” Is CCP not homogenous in some way?

        Can I also push back slightly against your conclusions in your post above.
        In your blog you said
        “But they tell me they think Glenn is not a massive fan of HUP, and is open to a range of different approaches to reaching multicultural Sydney. That he is most likely to back local churches in whatever mission approach they are trying.”

        You then went on to critique Rick for the absence of a clearly stated view. But Glenn has no clearly stated view – rather what Glenn’s people said is that Glenn supports whatever works locally. Moreover, Glenn HAS been a MASSIVE fan of HUP type plants in his region (eg. Philadelphia Church, Cantonese Churches, Japanese Churches). So you embrace Glenn for being “open” and critique Rick for “not advocating an approach” but both are saying the same thing!
        In fact, Glenn has been a massive fan of Rick’s ministry! He has backed Rick’s local church and his approach. Far from being a “not massive fan” of the HUP you claim Rick embraced, the Glenn CV mentions Glenn’s contribution to Rick’s plants and how Glenn has embraced the HUP model by allowing two Chinese parishes to come into existence:

        “As Bishop, Glenn has exercised pastoral oversight of 64 parishes, including the establishment of two Chinese congregations as separate parochial units…During his time as Chair, the Northern Region Council has spent $3.5m in targeted support of strategic ministry initiatives. The region has employed evangelists, ESL and cross cultural ministry co-ordinators, and has helped establish two Chinese and one Japanese-speaking congregation.”

        Thanks. Nigel

      • Dear Nigel,

        Brother I hear so many good things about your ministry, and also about Rick’s. I think he is a good guy and i am a fan of his ministry.

        I think perhaps we are missing each other a bit. In my post I’m not really that interested in the H and the U,Of course there is no pure HU church and no totally diverse church. It’s the P I’ve been writing about – the deliberate ethnic targetting approach to cross-cultural ministry.

        The issue is, what do these guys believe in? Neither has a clearly stated view, as you say. No one is ‘critiquing’ Rick for this. I think if you read my post again, you’ll see that I didn’t criticise Rick for this.

        But this lack of clearly stated views simply means we need to look at what the guys have actually done.

        The fact that Rick has gone approached cross-cultural by doing targetted ministries suggests that this is his preference, that’s all.

        The fact that Glenn has supported HUP style ministries seems entirely consistent with what his supporters told me: that he supports local ministry initiatives of various sorts, rather than pushing for one approach. Your suggestion that his backing Rick’s ministry shows he is a ‘massive fan of HUP, I find unconvincing.

        The question is not, should Rick have used HUP in Naremburn? The question is ‘which view would be good for mission in our diocese?’

        I’m not nominating for any candidate. Haven’t committed to voting one way of the other. I’m just calling it how I see it, and trying to stay calm along the way.



  3. Christopher Braga permalink

    Jonathan, I encouraged you to attend a Why Rick meeting (we had lots) and ask your question so you weren’t operating with 2nd hand information. Did you ever go to one? You might like to post the email I sent to you very early in your investigation.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Chris.

      I’d like to put this carefully. We all have different ideas about what an archbishop should be. I guess some people are comfortable with a archbishop campaigning for office. I thought going to that sort of meeting would probably bias me against the nominee. So I didn’t go.

      I’d prefer to find out about nominees from what is on the public record about them.

      • Christopher Braga permalink

        Thanks Jonathan. Your information will therefore be significantly limited by what is ‘public’. You might also like to correct that fact that “the whyrick people never bothered to reply” since, if my memory is correct, I replied to your email within 24 hours. Every blessing in reaching our diverse area! Cheers, Chris.

      • Chris, you feel I have misrepresented you. I regret this.

        My post at the blog was about two identical questions I asked at the respective candidates’ websites, about a week ago. I asked a specific question about HUP. I was hoping for an answer, or some acknowledgement of my question.

        That was the question I was talking about, when I said there was no reply from whyrick. If you sent one, I’m afraid I never received it.

        It’s true that some weeks earlier I did contact you personally with a comment about the whyrick site. I told you I had concerns about your ‘multicultural’ page and invited you to comment. You told me I’d need to attend a Rick campaign rally to get answers. I thought it was a pity that you didn’t really engage with my question that time. But you did reply!

        I didn’t mean to imply, in today’s post, that you never reply to emails.

        I highly esteem you brother as a fellow worker in Christ, you have always been kind and supportive towards me, and I don’t intend why comments on whyrick as personal remarks about you. There are other people involved in the site, yes?

        Hope that clarifies.

        God bless,


  4. Alex Greaves permalink

    There’s a strange irony in this.

    Rightly or wrongly, I’ve gained the impression (from occasional spectating) that Rick is one who would want to do ministry strictly in line with the patterns seen in the New Testament (“literalist” for my lack of knowledge of a better word), whereas Glenn would want to be more pragmatic and case-by-case.

    Yet the New Testament’s ideal, in Revelation 7:9, is of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” The literalist would say that HUP is anti-biblical and would remove it as quickly as he could; the pragmatist would say that Revelation 7 is the ideal that will occur only when Christ returns and, while we live between Genesis 11 and Revelation 7, the HUP is the way to go (unless shown otherwise).

    So, uh, who’s the pragmatist and who’s the literalist again?

    (I don’t know which is *better* – literalism or pragmatism – I lack the biblical expertise or ministry experience. I’m just a bit confused as to how to understand the two candidates. Thankfully, I’m not a synod attendee!)

  5. I’m another person who has no real stake in the Archbishop debates (at least not on a voting level), but want to offer a couple of thoughts.

    “There’s a time and place for monoethnic ministry: especially where there are language needs. But overall, our adoption of this policy has been directly involved in the disaster that has engulfed our churches in Sydney’s large multi-ethnic heart. Until we move on from it, there will be no multicultural future for us.”

    I think this is overstated. The real disaster is not that there have been monoethnic ministries, but that in large parts of Sydney there has been no real effort in some of these areas over the last 20-30 years to reach the changing population. I work in the Fairfield region and see it first hand in the churches there (and the ones that arent there anymore). Some are doing a great job now, but I think are struggling to catch up from a generation who thought that migrants would just come to them and adapt to a traditional English way of doing things.

    But on a practical level, as someone who leads a largely monoethnic church (Vietnamese which I am not personally) I see great merit in this. We see people coming to Christ who may not have been willing in a different church culture. They often see church as for white people and seeing a church full of people who are like them says to them that this is worth checking out.

    Having a monoethnic isn’t the end goal for us. We have a proportion of our congregations who are not Vietnamese – probably about 20% now, and as people continue to bring friends along, things broaden out. But it is an effective strategy for reaching people.

    Personally I would like to think there is a place for a variety of strategies as we seek to reach our city. Some trying to bring all peoples together week by week, some focusing on different groups. Both not losing sight of why they meet and certainly not excluding each other or saying this church is only for Chinese, Japanese etc.

    But thanks for your thoughts – this is an important issue for those choosing our next archbishop to consider and it is great to see you putting it on the agenda.

    • Thanks for your comments Nathan. We hear about the work going on in Fairfield and really value your ministry there. Good on you for being willing to reach out across cultures.

      As I wrote, there is a place for mono-ethnic, I meant no disrespect to those ministries. But what can be good in some instances, if it becomes the dominant model for the whole city (as it has) is not so good.

      You are right that the problem is ‘there has been no real effort in some of these areas over the last 20-30 years to reach the changing population‘.

      But don’t you think HUP thinking is the thinking that allows this situation to continue? ‘We do best at reaching people like us. We’re really targetting those people’. That’s a line that lets you off the hook from the difficult job of reaching out across cultures. As long as monocultural church is the norm, then our churches will flourish in monocultural areas, and die in multicultural areas. Because HUP thinking hinders them from facing their changing situation and adapting.

  6. Raymond Heslehurst permalink

    Part of the problem is confusing evangelistic activities with the ‘assembly of God’ in a location. The first is a pragmatic activity the second a theological necessity. (See the work of DWB Robinson – not to forget The Apostle) I no longer have a role in the political process.

    • Thanks for your comment, Raymond. However, I note that you’re talking theology. This is Sydney Diocese.

  7. Raymond Heslehurst permalink

    One hopes that the two are not mutually exclusive. After all I learnt theology in Sydney Diocese and if I remember correctly at least one bishop. DWBR, sought, in Synod, to get us to think theologically about our decisions and about how we, hopefully, conducted ministry and shaped our parissh life and practice by our theological reflections.

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