Just about every day, I walk past Moore College. It is the theological nerve centre of the Sydney Anglicans, prominently located at the beginning of King Street Newtown, across the road from the residential colleges of Sydney University.
I've been walking past it for nearly 25 years. The college has been housed in a forgettable 1960s style red brick building. However over the past two years, the site has undergone the most remarkable physical transformation. The old building was demolished and replaced with a much larger structure that must be regarded as a stunning piece of contemporary architecture. The builders handed the keys to the Principal just last month.
Even after 25 years, my stomach churns as I walk past Moore College. I don't expect that to change, no matter how much I like the building. The 'low church' theology and attitude reflected in the Sydney Diocese is the bête noire of almost the entire worldwide Anglican Communion, and personally I'm absolutely prejudiced against Sydney Anglicanism as I perceive it (the movement, not the people, I should stress).
Broadly speaking, it has a strident emphasis on reading and studying the Bible over a traditional Anglo Catholic-style 'high church' ornate liturgy or Mass celebration. Low church Anglicanism has always been at pains to stress its Protestant (and non- or anti-Catholic) identity. So I guess, as a Catholic - a 'Roman Catholic' - I'm hard wired to dislike it.
But that's not what really irks me. Rather it's the attitude that appears to exclude those who do not accept its teachings. Its exclusivity.
Over the years, I have also walked past and observed the other Anglican presence in my vicinity - St Stephen's Church, in Church Street Newtown.
When I moved here in 1993, the parish was at odds with most of the rest of the Sydney Diocese in that it was regarded as liberal. It had a sign at its gates: 'We Support the Ordination of Women'. Around 2000, there was some kind of regime change, and the sign was removed in a symbolic action that was seen by locals as a regrettable u-turn in the hitherto inclusive attitude of St Stephen's.
My guess it that head office decided that Newtown, with its large proportion of non-believers and GLBTIQ and various other alternative lifestyle types, was ripe for evangelisation, and it had to conform to the norms of the Diocese. But the locals had felt at one with the inclusive St Stephens and it seemed to me that they did not care for the perceived changes under the new regime.
The exclusive style of Christianity that I react against is reflected in the attitude that you're either a Christian or you're not. It's similar to that of George W. Bush after 9/11: 'Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists'. It is just as prevalent in the [Roman] Catholic Church as it is among evangelical Protestants, and also within other faiths, most notably Islam.
If somebody attempts to herd me into one of the two camps, I will go with those who are against the so-called Christians. But the truth is that most of my values come from Christianity and I cherish my Christian faith. But it's a Christian faith on my own terms and my community of believers are those who accept me for who I am and are not interested in bringing me into their particular religious fold.