The Anglican Synod has intelligent, progressive thinkers – good people who want to do right by kids in our schools, however, those people aren’t in charge, and don’t speak with the clarity, sense of purpose or passion that the people who want to use our schools as “mission fields” do.
That is the only only conclusion that I can draw from reading this report on the failure of Peter Sherlock, the Dean of Theology at Melbourne Divinity School to overcome the objections of Stephen Hale, the Chairman of ACCESS Ministries to pass a motion seeking expanded “General Religious Education” in State Schools.
What were Hale’s objections? Well for starters, he doesn’t want to do anything that would vindicate the AGE:
Bishop Hale said passage of the motion would mean that the Editor of The Age would feel totally vindicated about the position of his newspaper on SRI.
Got that? This is how you reason when you are totally committed to an agenda that is immune to reason.
Secondly, were the motion to pass, it would potentially set up a choice between SRI and GRE – a choice that Hale doesn’t want to have anyone have to make:
Bishop Stephen Hale, the chairman of ACCESS Ministries, warned that if the motion were adopted, the Victorian Government might have to make a choice between GRE and Special Religious Education (SRI), also known as Christian Religious Education (CRE).
The AGE’s editorial position, is of course a very moderate and reasonable one. It is summed by
One of the basic tenets of the Victorian Education Act is that public education should be secular, a sentiment that first emerged in the 19th century, and was reaffirmed in the past decade when the act was reviewed. There are those who have argued that it means there should be no religious content in public schools, although The Age believes that religion and ethics should be part of a rounded understanding of society.
This is what Hale is against, “a well rounded understanding of society”, and it is exactly what ACCESS does not preach to preps.
What Hale wants is to tell YOUR five year old, HIS beliefs. He doesn’t want to educate your child about Christianity, he wants to indoctrinate her into it … while she is at school. He wants “make a disciple”, he wants to “preach the gospel” … not on his time, but on YOUR TIME.
It is not different than if he proposed you leave your kitchen at 7:30 at night if you didn’t want to hear him say grace at your table.
THESE ARE NOT HIS SCHOOLS!!!!
This is what “Hale’s half hour” is all about. Hale wants “class time” – he doesn’t want to have an elective, he isn’t happy with offering his confessional program after school, or other times when it is not clearly the case that his class is what is “on”. No, that would be oppressive and unfair to HIM. Hale wants a system where those who don’t want confessional religious instruction to have to make the effort to “leave”. He wants you to pay for a system that he can use, for his purposes.
He wants, in plain terms, a “piece” of our school day.
This is wrong, and because we say it is wrong, and because we are challenging the rules that make it possible for him to have his way, he is angry.
But, it gets worse, because keeping “Hale’s half hour” wasn’t actually what this vote was about. The vote was simply about whether the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne would advocate for expanded teaching “about religion”. This is such a non proposal, that to see it go down in flames like this, under the seething militant fundamentalism of this evangelical activist says so much about the ability of the church to “do the right thing” when a choice is made between their doctrines and “the welfare of children”.
It says volumes about the capacity of moderates and progressives to do ANYTHING.
Hale’s comments are all about “saving face” and in no way about reasoned debate, honesty or the obvious needs of our kids. His is a turf war, and in the attenuated and gauzy terms of the Diocese debate, he won.
This is a pathetic and small minded group of people, who have a vested self interested stake in keeping something that doesn’t belong to them, they created “opt out” because they couldn’t get rid of the secular principles that gave rise to public education in the first place.
Sherlock gave it the old college try, and now we are going to see how the legal system fares when people speak plainly and without any deference to the authority of men like Stephen Hale, who are committed to using our schools as “the greatest Mission Field in Australia”.