(Acorn Press: Melbourne: 2010)
Love this book or hate it, agree or disagree, you have to give Tom Frame credit for bravely putting his own life on the line – for that is how it feels when you read A House Divided. I myself am profoundly grateful, for Tom Frame’s book is inviting the reader into a conversation the Australian Anglican Church desperately needs to have. Most dioceses recognise the need for change and across Australia Bishops are calling Anglicans to renewed prayer and mission. Many parishes are heeding the call and trying new things and re-engaging with their community. There is life in local gatherings where Jesus is honoured in all they do. Institutionally however, it seems a different matter.
Clergy depression and poor health is common. Bishop’s are burdened with untenable workloads which prevents them from having appropriate knowledge and care of their clergy. There is mistrust of the Diocese from individual parishes and agencies and Synods have become a political playing field for church parties that most Anglicans do not relate to or care for. Surely it is time to work out how to do things differently so that the new life in the parishes can flourish.
Tom Frame argues that if the Anglican Church is to growth into the challenges of Mission and Ministry in the twenty-first century, it needs to “re-imagine” it’s Synods, Episcopate and Dioceses and revive it’s intellectual life. He outlines suggested reforms for each of these in a thoughtful and thought provoking way. Frame’s particular reforms may end up being a ‘straw man’ but if that is the case, we are still indebted to him for it. They are real options which deserve consideration, though it is difficult to see enough people willing to concede enough personal power for them to win support.
As a Gen-X Anglican, Frame’s suggestions resonate with my concerns for dismantling the tower of power which the episcopate has come to represent; rescuing spirituality from the grips of institutional religion; and rejecting the narrow approaches to theology which undergirds the evangelical verses liberal dichotomies pulling the worldwide Anglican Communion apart. If you care about these things, it is worth the time and effort to read A House Divided yourself.