Michael Jensen and a Christian Response to Drowned AsylumSeekers

I live in Sydney, and I attend an Anglican church. Even so – and this is no secret – I’m not a ‘Sydney Anglican’.

For those in the know, Sydney Anglicanism represents a somewhat feisty version of Reformed Evangelicalism. It’s a diocese where the works of 16th Century Swiss Reformer John Calvin are highly prized, and where issues like women in ministry or same-sex marriage are generally frowned upon (quite often with some gusto). The diocese as a whole is (I think many would agree) rather zealously ‘evangelistic’, and issues of social justice are, in general, sidelined as being, at best, tangential to the ‘real’ work of the Gospel.

(As a side note here, I simply can’t understand how this false-dichotomy (‘evangelism’ vs ‘social action’) can be sustained, as it is my understanding that the ‘Good News’ about (and announced by) Jesus of Nazareth is epic in scope. I sometimes wonder if this intense focus on ‘personal salvation’ is nothing less than a drastic underestimation of the the work of God in Jesus. The ‘Good News’, the Evangel, is all about the wise rule of God being worked out in every aspect of [re]creation, so how is it possible to evangelise by focussing solely on personal sin and forgiveness? I don’t get it, but I digress.)

This week, however, I have been pleasantly surprised. In fact, I would go so far to say that the events of this week have done much to rekindle the flame of hope that is usually my guiding light but which, of late, has been a flickering candle struggling amidst the darkness of despair.

This week, Dr Michael Jensen from Moore College (the symbolic heart of Sydney Anglicanism) wrote a beautiful article, outlining the profound sadness that surrounds the Australian Government’s decision to leave the bodies of dozens of asylum seekers – human beings created ‘in the image of God’ – at sea, and the way that, from a Christian perspective, we cannot be comfortable with the walls of partition that separate ‘them’ from ‘us’, which is the only way that such dehumanisation as we have witnessed through this tragedy can stand. He outlined brilliantly how our ’embodied-ness’ is essential to our being, rather than something to be overcome.

It was excellent.

But more than this, Michael and the St Barnabas Anglican Church, Broadway (‘Barney’s’), have announced a special memorial service for those who perished in the tragedy (this Sunday, June 23rd). It is, I think, a profound gesture. It is something that is much more than just ‘symbolic’.

Thank you, Dr Jensen and those at Barney’s, for doing this, and for the gentle rebuke that it offers to my understanding of ‘Sydney Anglicanism’.

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Josh Dowton

Student of history/theology/nonviolence/permaculture/missional thinking. Large of limb, red of hair. Semper in excretia sumus, solum profundum variat.

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