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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Justin writes on the McDonaldisation of the Anglican Church in Australia

The process of McDonaldisation as described by Ritzer refers to the 'process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more… societies throughout the world' . These principles have come to not only dominate the fast-food industry but also all of aspects of cultural life in Australia including the spiritual life of the Anglican Church in Australia. The Anglican Church has been deeply affected by the McDonaldisation process with its already contentious divide between its Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings being extenuated. Ritzer has described the main function of the McDonaldisation as being the creation of, 'a formal model based on a limited number of principles that can be replicated virtually anywhere in the world'.

The application of this can be seen by the development of a simple theology for simple people in the Diocese of Sydney that has reduced the complex nature of the tradition theology of the Anglican Church found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith down to five fundamental principles. These five principles of Evangelicalism according to Billy Graham’s mentor George Marsden in his book Evangelicalism in Modern America are,
  1. the Reformation doctrine of the final authority of Scripture;
  2. the real, historical character of God’s saving work recorded in Scripture;
  3. eternal salvation only through personal trust in Christ;
  4. the importance of evangelism and missions; and
  5. the importance of spiritually transformed life .

In the Diocese of Sydney the McDonaldisation of its liturgical worship and social life is more profound than in other Anglican Diocese in Australia due to its Americanised Evangelical mission related focus. Ritzer describes how ‘efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control, particularly through the substitution nonhuman for human technology, as well as the seemingly inevitable irrationalities of rationality that accompany the process’ . The Sydney diocese with its formalistic practice exemplifies all three of these key components of McDonaldisation.


Efficiency in terms of McDonaldisation refers to ‘the effort to discover the optimum means to whatever end is chosen’ . In the Sydney Diocese, this relates to the central focus of its mission statement and the means that they are prepared to go to, to make sure these goals are achieved.

The stated mission of the Sydney Diocese has as its core objective, ‘To see 10% of the population of the region of the Diocese in Bible-believing churches in 10 years’ . It is this mission focus of the Sydney Diocese, originating from its Archbishop Peter Jensen that is having a negative impact on what has been the traditional mission of the church to promote its doctrine and to look after its members. These radical departures by the Sydney Diocese form the foundations of Anglicanism is putting the nature of the Anglican Communion in danger due to exclusionary nature of its ‘God’s Way or the Highway’ approach to theological churchmanship.

Keith Mascord the former Moore College Lecturer and Rector of the Parish of South Sydney in two openly published letters to the members of the Diocesan Standing Committee has given an insider’s view to the problems with the Sydney Diocese’s drive for efficiency . In his second letter, Dr. Mascord outlines the concerns that the many mainline Anglican Evangelicals in the Sydney Diocese have in regard to the cultural life of the church. Mascord goes on to describe the culture of Sydney Evangelicalism as containing five major elements, fear, suspicion, politicisation, monochromism and the lack of self-criticism . These characteristics have been expressed through a neo-Manichaeistic us and them approach to people with diverging opinions like Pentecostals, liberal theologians, advocates for a social based gospel, feminists who wish to see men and women treated equally and people who promote post-modern theological theories like the emerging church .

An example of this drive for efficiency can be seen in the anti-intellectualism of the Diocesan hierarchy that is expressed the ‘censorship of thought’ in a questionnaire for third year ordination candidates a Moore College . As Mascord explains,

One of the issues canvassed in the questionnaire is whether or not it is acceptable for a women to preach to mixed audiences of men and women. Phillip Jensen has recently told a group of ordination candidates that it is ‘sinful’ for a woman to preach to men; that it is also sinful for a man to allow this. Knowledge of this fact will immovability put pressure of students to tick the acceptance box.

The creation of this kind of cultural climate where fear and mistrust are utilised as a means to control and to create greater efficiency for service delivery of the Evangelical product. The uses of such techniques are as a result of the McDonaldisation of the Christian church in Australia due to globalisation of economic models of operation. In the Sydney Dioceses the mission statement is prevailing of traditional documents such as the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith and the Book of Common Prayer as the basis for theological reflection. As a result there has been in recent years a homogenisation of service delivery when it comes to Evangelical parishes in the Sydney Diocese.

Predictability Ensuring the Homogenisation of Service Delivery

Ritzer describes predictability as the 'effort to ensure that products and services are much the same from one time or place to another' . In the Sydney Diocese, this is exemplified in a stale homogenised imitation of the theologically deficient rock concerts that are the trademark of the Hillsong Pentecostal Church in North-Western Sydney .

Since 1990 there has been an attempt the Evangelical Party in the Sydney Diocese, otherwise known as the Anglican Church League (ACL) or the Reformed Evangelical Protestant Alliance (REPA), to impose a narrow and mission driven agenda upon local parishes. The parishes that wish to have female clergy or wish to appoint ministers trained in traditional Anglican ecclesiology have found themselves unable to appoint the ministers of their own choice .

Traditional Anglican parishes have also found themselves frozen out of Diocesan associated ventures like the Southern Cross newspaper and internet activities like Sydney Anglican Media under Peter Jensen’s leadership. This type of exclusion of traditional Anglican churches harks back to the bad old days in the Sydney Diocese that can be found in John Spooner’s book, The Archbishop of Railway Square: A History of Christ Church, St Laurence Sydney . Spooner in his book provides a history of the struggle between Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical sections of the Anglican Church in Sydney through the biographical lens of the lives of Christ Church St Laurence’s ministers . A struggle which has helped Christ Church St Laurence develop an unique and original interpretation of the spirituality of the Anglo-Catholic liturgical ritual in the Sydney Diocese despite over a century of persecution from its diocesan authorities.

Calculability and Quantity over Quality in Evangelical Services

Ritzer’s concept of calculability focuses on achieving 'quantity over quality' and in the case of the Sydney Anglican Church, this place an emphasis on conversion over education when it comes to interpreting the message of the gospels. In translating this concept of calculability into the Sydney Evangelical mindset the process quick and easy conversions has come to be the established trademark of their Americanised, McDonaldised and Pentecostalised church services .

The liturgical services in these churches have been altered from the Anglican services found in the various versions of the Prayer Book . The reasoning behind is that it is necessary to ensure that hierarchical control is achieved so that an accent can be placed on the conversion of outsiders, even those who have previously been associated with other forms of Christianity so that these people may be directed towards achieving the diocesan mission of converting 10% of Sydney to Evangelical churches. Its aim is not to secure the conversion and salvation of unchurched people in Sydney but to allow the effective takeover of the Anglican Church assets in Australia by those of an Evangelical Lutheran persuasion.

The Control of Workers and Customers Through the Use Modern Technology

The use of non-human technology in the parishes of the Sydney Dioceses is one of the key defining characteristics of 'Sydney Evangelicalism'. The use of modern non-human technologies, for example audio-visual equipment like large plasma screen televisions and data-projectors, modern musical equipment like drum kits and electric guitars, computer generated ministry resources allows for a greater degree of centralised control over their employees at local churches.

These technological advances also allows for greater control of the responses of the church ‘customers’ over whom the evangelical message is being directed. Students of Moore College regularly check church websites and report suspect activity back to diocesan authorities electronically via the Sydney Media website chat rooms .

The centralisation of power and authority in the Sydney Anglican Church is in direct violation of the Calvinistic congregational principles found in the Westminster Confession of Faith establish by Oliver Cromwell whose revolution of 1649 established the Low Church and sort to end such perversions and abuse of power .


Blogger Mark C said...

Good stuff. Grounded and nicely theorized yet totally accessible

10:20 PM  

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