Saturday, April 21, 2018

50 years ago: "Swinging" Anglicans in Australia attract attention by shocking people

As reported by Gemini News Service and published in the Calgary Albertan, April 20, 1968:

Helen Clayton, 20-year-old wife of an Anglican minister, is once again shocking the parishioners of North Beach, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia's capital.

During Eastern Holy Week she is presenting at her husband's church, St. Michael's, a controversial play called Casey.

The play, set in modern times, centres on three main characters chatting together at the feet of Christ on the cross.

Mrs. Clayton describes her play like this: "Casey is a sergeant in charge of the cross party. From time to time he looks up to address Christ in terms like: 'Hey God, listen to me...' The play is meant to shock people, and I think it will."

Shocking people is no new experience for young Helen Clayton, the latest personality to arise among Western Australia's swinging Anglicans.

This is the tag being earned by a growing band of Church of England characters who have been getting the once-staid old denomination almost as much publicity as the no-transfusion rule of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the weird "org" methods of Scientology.

The methods of the unofficial public-relations teams of the swinging Anglicans, however, take a benign form.

All the Anglicans aim to do is draw attention back to the church, to religion in general. Their theme is tolerance, and if their efforts mean producing a few shocks here and there, they are agreeable.

Take Perth's Anglican Archbishop George Appleton, formerly a social-worker among youth in London slum areas.

Among his latest feats which put the church on Page One was the marriage of a man and woman who had both been divorced. It is believed to be the first Anglican-sanctified union of its kind in Australia. The ceremony took place in Perth's St. George's Cathedral--happily watched by children born while the couple were living together, waiting for somebody to marry them.

Then there's the Anglican Bishop of the North-West, the Right Reverend Howell Witt--supplier of TV scripts to the Mavis Bramston Show, a commercial television program of risque reputation.

Since its very first episode, the weekly all-Australian satirical revue has held uncontested its rating as TV's rudest program. It is usually funny, always startling, often downright vulgar.

The fact that a Western Australian Bishop is among its contributors seems not at all strange to the (mostly English) cast--and perfectly normal to Witty Witt the Bishop, as they call him in the wild North-West.

The Bishop is now offering TMOSH as his latest. That's "Thirty Minutes of Sheer Hell," he explains. "It's sort of what the bishop said to the actress."

A snatch of verse on what a tough life grandma had, slaving for a family of 10 with no labor-saving devices, is typical of the Witt style of getting his message across.

It winds up:

"But Grandmama was 83
When she breathed her last breath;
And Mother wasn't 50 when
She bored herself to death."
In 1968, it was shocking for a divorced heterosexual couple to cohabit and then get married in the Anglican church with the church's approval. The perceptive reader will notice that a church's liberalization on divorce and remarriage is an early sign of apostasy. In the 50 years since this article was published, mainline churches have gone from allowing divorced people to remarry in the church to putting divorced people in positions of leadership; putting women in positions of leadership; ordaining non-practicing homosexuals; and ordaining all manner of practicing alphabet perverts. The 2018 equivalent of Helen Clayton is likely to be the "minister," with a lesbian partner. The so-called "evangelical" churches are heading in the same direction now as the mainline churches were then--and they'll end up in the same place. Coincidence? No--decadence!

The reader will also notice the "swinging" Anglicans' fondness for worldly entertainment, much of it in questionable taste. Nowadays, the same sort of thing is encouraged in evangelical churches, using terms such as "engaging the culture." The world was more shocked by such goings-on in 1968 than the church is now.

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