Anglicans must embrace their pluralism, rather than simply tolerate, says Bishop-elect of Gippsland
By Mark Brolly
17 June 2018
Bishop-elect Richard Treloar says Anglicans can offer the wider world a more relational understanding of truth as an alternative to binary thinking that accentuates differences – but only if they embrace their own pluralism and diversity as gifts rather than simply tolerating them.
Speaking to TMA as he and his family prepared for the transition from South Yarra to Sale, where he is to be based as Bishop of Gippsland, Dr Treloar said the parish he has led for 11 years, Christ Church, is more diverse than is sometimes supposed. He described it as “a very open, inclusive and invitational place with kind of soft edges”.
“People might assume that we’re like-minded but that’s not the case and I’m glad that’s not the case because that would be really unhealthy,” Dr Treloar said.
Marriage equality was a case in point, he said.
“People might assume that we’re all strongly in favour of same-sex marriage and that’s not so, and it’s really important that we hold that diversity of views in charity and with great respect and that we have a conversation in a way that exhibits grace.
“Personally, I voted ‘Yes’ in the postal survey… Like many Anglicans, I hope the day will come when anyone who wishes to do so can be married in our churches. But that said, there’s a process that we need to work through at the level of the national Church…”
Dr Treloar grew up in Sydney, attending several parishes on the North Shore and an Anglican school in Hornsby.
“I deeply value that more evangelical upbringing and formation of my youth,” he said.
“The love of Scripture that my grandmother instilled in me was nurtured by the work of the chaplains at my school and the churches I attended up and down the North Shore of Sydney and I’m very grateful for that. And I think catholicism is essentially evangelical and we need to be able to hold those things together, so I’m really glad of having had that upbringing in the Anglican Church of Sydney.”
After initially seeking to follow his father as a doctor, he offered himself for ordination in the Ballarat diocese, where his brother was chaplain to Bishop John Hazlewood. He began his studies at Trinity College Theological School 30 years ago. “I never really looked back once I put my toe in those theological waters,” he said.
Dr Treloar and his wife Leanne Habeeb, an organisational psychologist, have two children, Rachel (7) and Nicholas (nearly 6).
He is concerned by the rise in the church and the world of binary thinking, “a kind of either/or polarising dualism, which accentuates the ends of the spectrum at the expense of the centre and of the many points in between, so we end up with these sorts of false alternatives or false dichotomies – catholic or evangelical, liberal or conservative”.
“Why can’t we be catholic and evangelical, liberal and conservative?
“Perhaps our celebration of Trinity Sunday helps us to do that because we’re reminded of God being revealed in this ceaseless loving interplay of three Persons and that in itself challenges binary world-views in favour of more relational understandings of truth.
“So I suspect in order to hang together, we have to learn to embrace our own pluralism rather than merely tolerating it. I think we actually have to receive it as a gift and to live with the ambiguity that our diversity sometimes generates for us – and that’s challenging…
“Hopefully we can model that different kind of engagement in our own dialogue as a church around these complex issues and model that for the wider community. The Anglican Church has something quite distinct to offer on that front because we’re such a broad church.”
Of his hopes for his new ministry in Gippsland, Dr Treloar says simply: “My first and foremost hope is that I would be a good servant to the clergy and people of Gippsland and to the wider Anglican Church as called upon. I really do feel called to Gippsland… and my first priority is to serve there faithfully and accountably and in the spirit of collegiality and partnership.”