Peter Phillips

Dissent in Sydney

Peter Phillips on church music

Never have my asseverations in this column attracted so much attention as those about the Dean and Archbishop of Sydney. If anyone were to think that Anglicanism was a dead topic, they should visit Australia. One has only to scratch the surface and out pour the most passionate arguments, though not from the employees of the brothers in charge of the archdiocese of Sydney, who fear for their jobs if they speak a word of dissent. That is where I have an advantage.

I gave two formal lectures, after which I was invited on to a prime-time breakfast programme on the ABC to outline my concerns. The Sydney Morning Herald then ran several reports, the last — a few days ago — informing its readers that, although the Dean (who once referred to Prince Charles as ‘a serial adulterer’ and has since been gagged by his minders) was not prepared to go on the same radio programme in person, he was inclined to accuse me of being a musical snob while underlining that his anti-cultural stance had doubled the size of the congregation in the Cathedral while halving its age. Old Cathedral hands have pointed out that this would mean, if true, that hundreds of people must be worshipping outside the building, and that the majority of them are now children.

The main objection to the egregious Jensen brothers is that while they are destroying things of beauty, including the musical tradition of a great Cathedral which it will take decades to revive, they are only able to replace it with a cult of themselves. Unsurprisingly the terms of this cult encompass one of the most arch-conservative doctrines any modern man has been capable of devising. They speak slightingly of everything that cannot be justified in the narrowest reading of the New Testament: not just high culture but also any culture, not just gays and Muslims but even the proper status of women.

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