(Photograph: ABC, 2018)
The Anglican Church of Tasmania is selling 55 churches and a considerable portfolio of other properties.
Its survival strategy appears to be congruent with its sister branches elsewhere in the Western world. Having haemorrhaged most of its believers as a consequence of no longer proclaiming anything of worth, it has astutely recognised that the only way to keep the religion lumbering on for the immediate future is to approach the church in much the same way that a corporate headquarters approaches its outlets: cull the weak, close the unprofitable, sell the fat. In other words, the ruthless application of economic rationalisation.
The sell-off will raise about $30,000,000 for an estimated 200 survivors of abuse at the hands of Anglican clergy in Tasmania. But it is likely that the sale will generate three times that amount which will then be ploughed back into the very parishes that were unable to sustain the churches they sold in the first place. It thus kills two birds with one stone. It neutralises the issue of abuse survivors and also creates cash.
If there is anything that demonstrates the unenviable conundrum of the Anglican Church, it is this. With congregations in free fall decline, the only means to raise liquid revenue is to sell their property. But raising money for your heart by selling one of your kidneys is never going to be a sustainable strategy.
The financial situation of the Anglican Church more broadly reflects its theological situation where it increasingly represents a hollowed shell, propped up by the pillars of tradition which are so flexible in meaning as to reach the point of utter indifference. The rotting edifice is occupied by ageing liberals and once-radicals from the 1970’s who seem to think they can capture the affection and attention of people by being edgy and “not stuffy”. Such as allowing the Vagina Monologues to be recited in their churches.
In any case, the Bishop of Tasmania Dr. Richard Condie has his work cut out for him since he not only faces the burden of a rapidly thinning flock but also opposition from the very faction of theological liberals that have worked so tirelessly to shrink the number of souls in his cure.
They describe him as “fundamentalist” because he believes what St. Paul wrote about homosexuality. The bishop has even made statements in which he hints at the centrality of scripture. He has said that within the Anglican Communion there has been an “…erosion of confidence in the truth of the Bible that has led to an erosion of teaching about sexuality, the uniqueness of Christ, the resurrection, about abortion, euthanasia, and all kinds of things, such that this is not recognisable as historic biblical Christianity“. In other words, the communicants and clergy of the Anglican Church, many no longer recognisably Christian, are in desperate need of evangelism.
It gives one some indication as to how far off the ranch the Anglican Church has travelled when a “fundamentalist” within their ranks is anyone who believes the Bible. It also explains why they have a shortage of Christian communicants. To have churches brimming full of Christians, you need to present actual Christianity, oddly enough.
“My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me… But they will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.“