Category Archives: News

Congratulations to Greg Jenks

Sunday 4th June 2017

Bishop Sarah Macneil, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, has announced that the Reverend Canon Dr Gregory C. Jenks has been appointed as Rector of the Parish of Grafton and Dean of the Cathedral Church of Christ the King.Greg Jenks2

The official announcement is being made this morning in the Cathedral Parish and in the Parish of Byron Bay, where Canon Jenks is currently serving after returning to Australia from Jerusalem earlier this year.

Dean Jenks will take up his appointment as the eighth Dean of Grafton later this year, and will continue to serve as the locum priest for the Anglican Parish of Byron Bay until that time.

The Cathedral of Christ the King has both local and diocesan mission responsibilities. The Cathedral is the parish church for the Anglican Parish of Grafton, which includes the northern half of the city as well as two nearby rural centres: Copmanhurst and Lawrence. At the same time, the Cathedral has a prophetic mission to the city of Grafton, and within the Northern Rivers more generally, as well as its ministry within the wider life of the Diocese.

Greg Jenks is married to Eve James, who is manager of the Roscoe Library at St Francis Theological College in Brisbane. They have two adult daughters.

For Canon Jenks this is a return to his roots in the Northern Rivers, as he was born and raised in Lismore.

Dr Jenks is a Canon Emeritus of the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr in Jerusalem, and was previously the Dean of St George’s College in Jerusalem. Prior to his appointment in Jerusalem, Dr Jenks was Academic Dean of St Francis Theological College  and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.

Canon Jenks values his close links with Palestinian Anglican communities in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Haifa. He looks forward to developing mission partnerships and pilgrimage opportunities between the Cathedral and these faith communities in the Holy Land.

Dr Jenks is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeology Project in northern Israel, where he also serves as the coin curator for the dig, and is also the founding director of the Centre for Coins, Culture and Religious History. His research interests focus on the coins from the Bethsaida excavations, as well as other coins that illuminate the role religion has played in shaping human culture.

Dr Jenks is the author of several books and numerous published essays. His most recent books include Jesus Then and Jesus Now (2014) and The Once and Future Bible (2011).



Religious Studies rapidly growing in England and Wales

Entries for Religious Studies A level rising faster than for any other Arts, Humanity or Social Science

The key outcomes of the 2015 A level results in England and Wales for Religious Education are as follows:

  • 23,372 RS A level entries were recorded, an increase of 6.5% on 2014 and more than double the number is 2003 (11,132 entries were recorded in 2003)
  • The number of entries for RS A level has increased by 110% since 2003, more than for any arts, humanity or social science subject (the nearest subject is Political Studies with an increase of 62%). Among all subjects, only Further Maths has seen a more rapid growth than RS
  • 23.3% of entries for RS A level were awarded an A or A*
  • There were 37,365 entries for RS at AS level, an increase of 5% on 2014 and more than double the number in 2003 (15,482 entries were recorded in 2003)

The contextual evidence shows the growing status of RS as a subject for Higher Education entry:

  • The Russell Group of top universities has made it clear that RS A level provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’
  • Both Oxford and Cambridge University include Religious Studies in the top level list of ‘generally suitable Arts A levels’
  • Applicants with Religious Studies A level were more likely to gain admission to study History at Oxford University in 2012 than those with A levels in many ‘facilitating’ subjects
  • 20% of students admitted to Oxford University to study mathematics in 2012 had an RS A level (more than those with Economics, Physics and Business Studies A levels)
  • Research from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University on the comparative difficulty of different subjects at A level showed that RS was ‘in the middle difficulty range, similar to Geography and more demanding than English’ {1}


Bishop Jeremy Greaves

Congratulations to Rev Jeremy Greaves, Rector, St Marks, Buderim, who will become Bishop of the Nor07d23821thern Region of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane from mid February 2017.

The consecration ceremony will be held at St Johns Cathedral, Brisbane at 7pm on Friday 24th February.

Jeremy led our team over three years of planning for the very successful Common Dreams Conference in Brisbane this year. His guiding hand kept a large team with diverse backgrounds and skills working in unity for this long period.

Jeremy brings extensive and varied experiences to his new role:

He has been Parish Priest at Buderim since May 2013. Currently he is also Archdeacon for the area.

Before coming to Buderim, Fr. Jeremy was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin where he presided over the rebuilding of the cathedral badly damaged by cyclone. He has worked in parishes in Adelaide and remote South Australia as well as Katherine in the Northern Territory.

He has passion for ministry with people, often thought of as being on the margins. He will also maintain a strong interest in the developing Progressive Christianity movement.

Fr. Jeremy is married to Josie and together they have three children.

His administrative region covers all parishes on the northern side of the Brisbane River to Bundaberg and he hopes to reside on the Sunshine Coast where the Greaves children attend schools.



Progressive Christians offering sanctuary to refugees

More than ten Australian Churches across Australia are offering sanctuary to refugees who may be transferred to detention on Nauru. Now 10 Anglican and Uniting churches around the country have offered sanctuary to the asylum seekers who are at risk of being returned.

The Churches, all with strong progressive values, are invoking the historical concept of sanctuary, opening their doors to asylum seekers facing removal back to offshore detention centres.

Key points:

  • ‘Sanctuary’ concept yet to be tested under Australian law
  • High Court rejects challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres
  • 270 asylum seekers in fear of being returned to Manus Island or Nauru

The High Court has rejected a challenge to the legality of Australia’s offshore detention centres, a ruling that means nearly 270 asylum seekers who came to Australia for medical treatment could be returned to either Nauru or Manus Island.

One of Australia’s senior Anglican leaders, Rev Dr Peter Catt, said places of worship were entitled to offer sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

Peter Catt is Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane. From 1997 to 2007 Peter was the Dean of Grafton. He helped establish and run the International Philosophy, Science and Theology Festival, which wPeter Cattas held at Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton. He holds a PhD in evolutionary microbiology from the University of NSW and a BD from the Melbourne College of Divinity.

His interests include Christian Formation, liturgical innovation, the interaction between science and religion, and Narrative Theology . He is a member of a number of environmental and Human Rights organisations and has serves on Anglican Social Justice Committees at both Diocesan and National level. He is the current chair of The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s new report reveals what Ms Narayanasamy describes as the “alarming impacts of detention on children”.

The report is based on interviews and medical testing of children at Wickham Point detention facility, many of whom spent time on Nauru.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is under increased pressure to allow asylum seekers to remain in Australia following claims the overwhelming majority of former child detainees are at risk of serious mental health issues.

Labor MP Melissa Parke has lashed out at her party for supporting the Federal Government’s “utterly repugnant” offshore processing regime following a High Court ruling upholding the policy of detaining asylum seekers on Nauru.

A woman who was held in detention on Nauru before giving birth to a son in Darwin last year after complications during the pregnancy has described today’s High Court decision as a nightmare.

Immigration minister Peter Dutton said the government would not be “dragging people out of churches” but insisted that the people’s cases would be individually considered on medical advice.

As well as St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane other churches and affiliated chapels offering sanctuary were:

  • St Cuthbert’s Anglican church, Darlington, Western Australia
  • Wesley Uniting church, Perth
  • Gosford Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pilgrim Uniting church, Adelaide
  • St John’s Uniting church, Essendon
  • Paddington Anglican church, Sydney
  • Pitt Street Uniting church, Sydney
  • Wayside Chapel, Sydney

Acknowledgement: Material taken from several ABC News bulletins and The Guardian News.

Greg Jenks to become Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem

The Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, has announced the appointment of the Reverend Dr Gregory Jenks as Dean of St George’s CGreg Jenks2ollege in Jerusalem.

More details here:


As Academic Dean and Lecturer in Biblical Studies, St Francis Theological College, Brisbane and Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, Dr Jenks has had a long-standing interest in Christian origins and is the lead researcher for the Jesus Database project. He has been Visiting Professor and Scholar-in-Residence at St George’s College, Jerusalem on several occasions, and is a co-director of the Bethsaida Archaeological Excavation in Israel. Greg is a Fellow of the Westar Institute, and served as its Associate Director 1999-2001.

We have had a long association with Greg and have appreciated his contributions to local, national and international seminars on progressive christianity.  His recent publications include:

Wisdom and Imagination: Religious Progressives and the Search for Meaning, edited by Rex A. E. Hunt & Gregory C. Jenks. Melbourne: Morning Star Publishing, 2014.

Jesus Then and Jesus Now: Looking for Jesus, Finding Ourselves. Melbourne: Morning Star Publishing, 2014.

Free Study Guide – ePub format for iBook and other tablets, and also a PDF version.

The once and future Scriptures: Exploring the role of the Bible in the contemporary church. (editor & contributor)
Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2013.

The once and future Bible: An introduction to the Bible for religious progressives.
Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011.

A full listing of his writings can be found at:

We offer our congratulations to Greg on this appointment and look forward to the fruits that will follow.

Westar Institute Spring Meeting Report

Thanks to Rex Hunt for forwarding this reporWestar Feature-Banner-S15-revt from Dr Lorraine Parkinson:

Westar Spring Meeting,

Flamingo Resort, Santa Rosa, California, March 2015.

 There were about 166 attendees at the Westar Spring Meeting, mainly from the US, 4 Canadians, 1 from the UK, 1 from Japan and 3 Australians!  The age group looked mainly like the average church congregation, except for a great group of 6 youngish clergy, gathered together by David Galston.

The meeting kicked off with a public lecture from Bernard Brandon Scott on his new book ‘The Real Paul’.  To start, we were given ‘5 quick and dirty rules for understanding Paul’!  Most memorable for me was BBS’s regular instruction to ‘forget Acts!’ as repository of historical information about Paul.   He also argued that we set aside ideas that Paul was converted to anything.  Instead, that Paul saw himself as called to be an envoy of God’s news about Jesus the Anointed.  He is to take this news to ‘the nations’, not to the whole world, but to the nations that make up the Roman Empire.

In a panel discussion on ‘The Search for the Real Paul’, Lane C. McGaughy’s translation work on the letters of Paul was discussed, where LMcG argues against Luther’s translation of Romans 3:22.  Instead of the subjective genitive, (Jesus the Anointed’s own faithfulness), Luther translated 3:22 with the objective genitive (faith in Jesus the Anointed).   The question was, does Lane McGaughy’s work undermine the Protestant Reformation?

The Christianity Seminar (that began in 2013) was engaged in considering the stories of Christian martyrdom that appeared from the second century CE.  Various scholars, including Jennifer Wright Knust, argued that many of the martyr stories were written later than that, and were used alongside scripture as affirmations of loyalty to Jesus Christ, instead of to Caesar.

Hal Taussig made the important point that before the Emperor Decius’ edict (249 CE) there was no systematic persecution of Christians.  It only happened during the period 303 – 311 (the Diocletian persecutions).  Most martyr stories were written after the legalization of Christianity.  Why was that so?  This was part of an imperial mentality developing among Christians.  The stories were to be read to celebrate the dead leader (as happened re the emperors). Monasteries had full sets of martyr story texts long before full sets of canonical material.

Westar continues to expand its repertoire into new areas of scholarly conversation.   This spring it introduced a new seminar on ‘God and the Human Future’.  The lectures and conversations began with Peter Steinberger’s ‘Thinking about thinking about God’.  Steinberger is a professor of humanities and political science who argues that we are all aproleptics, aprolepticism being what he calls ‘the idea of not having an idea’ – about God – because we are not talking about something real, that conforms to ‘cause and effect’.  But cause and effect does not explain the existence of the universe, either.

John Caputo (theological philosopher) took us into two ways of thinking about God – the ‘Weakness of God’ and the ‘Insistence of God’.   Regarding the first, he quoted Derrida’s illustration of the ‘weak’ force of justice.  The law has force.  If we can’t make justice strong, we must make the law just.  Justice itself is a ‘weak force’.   Justice is force associated with God.  Therefore God is a ‘weak force’.

Caputo’s lecture confirmed for me the non-existence of God the being.  I found his concluding observation compelling: “The audacity of weak theology is the audacity of hope and the audacity of hope is the audacity of God.”

The ‘insistence of God’ represents for Caputo the insistence of the ‘call’.  This can be disturbing whispers in the ears of theologians – who then (he says) get fired!  God ‘calls’, but bringing about God’s existence is our responsibility.

Jeffrey Robbins (Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy) affirmed the opportunity Westar gave for collaboration of scholars across disciplines.  He made the point that there is a re-thinking of philosophical theology going on.  “But when philosophers think themselves to the limits of their thought, they ‘stumble upon religion’.  Philosophy and religion are now ‘bleeding into each other’.   Robbins declared that Westar can build conversations between historians and philosophers.  “Radical theology dissolves the distinction between theism and atheism.  The better response is ‘non-theism’.

Joe Bessler (Professor of Theology) wondered what theology is like after the Death of God.  There must be something there to talk about, a basic something, like pure water, to add flavour to.  If there is a foundational essence, what is it?  Or is there nothing?

The Meeting included plenty of time for talking with other attendees, including receptions and the final banquet, where a moving memorial to Marcus Borg was led by Art Dewey and Robin Meyers.

The meeting was indeed a feast of intellectual and conversational stimulation.  I hope this short summary conveys something of what was offered.

Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson, Melbourne


Marcus Borg – remembered, repected, recognised

Marcus J. Borg (March 11, 1942 – January 21, 2015) was an American New Testament scholar, theologian and author. He was a fellow of the Jesus Seminar and a former Hundere marcus borgDistinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, a position from which he retired in 2007. Borg was among the most widely known and influential voices in progressive Chrisitianity and is a major figure in scholarship related to the historical Jesus. He died at the age of 72 on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, after a prolonged battle with  idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

David Gibson, National Reporter (New York) for the Religion News Service, posted a comprehensive ‘obit’ on 22nd January on the RNS website Religion News Service. He highlighted the way in which Borg ‘popularized the intense debates about the historical Jesus and the veracity and meaning of the New Testament’.

Gibson relates how Borg questioned the Bible but never lost his passion for the spiritual life or ‘his faith in God as “real and mystery”.

In 1979 Borg joined the faculty at Oregon State University and taught religion there until his retirement in 2007.

Borg’s 1987 book, “Jesus: A New Vision,” launched him to prominence. The book summarized and explained recent New Testament scholarship for a popular audience while presenting Jesus as a social and political prophet of his time who was driven by his relationship with God. Borg viewed this relationship as more important than traditional Christian beliefs based on a literal reading of the Bible.

Borg loved to debate but was no polemicist, and over the years maintained strong friendships with those who disagreed with him, developing a reputation as a gracious and generous scholar in a field and a profession that are not always known for those qualities. Continue reading