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by Edmund Campion

The recent row about the new dean of St Andrews Cathedral Sydney sacking the choir from Sunday Evensong - to be replaced by a Hillsong hootenanny - puzzled outsiders, who found it hard to comprehend Sydney Anglicanism. Such outsiders might learn from J R Reid's Marcus L Loane: A Biography (Acorn Press, $34.95), a short but nourishing exploration of this evangelical hero.

The swift abbreviation of Hugh Rowlands Gough's tenure, following his tennis court romance, brought Loane to the archbishopric, in 1966. Even Anglo-Catholics like Francis James voted for Loane, as an Aussie leader after more than a century of Englishmen. The archbishop once told the late Ken Cable, historian, that the biggest problem he faced in the beginning was to prevent his men from wearing Eucharistic vestments; but by the end (1982) the problem was to get them to wear any vestments at all.

Students of history may here recall the rise of the puritans to power in the 17th century church. In Sydney the motor force of a similar puritanism has been the teaching of Moore Theological College, where Loane had been Principal. After him came his brother-in-law, David Broughton Knox, the real maker of modern Sydney Anglicanism. Neo-Calvinists ordained from Moore - wintry, biblicist, homiletical rather than sacramental, anti-papist - were successful in gaining power in order to embed in the church their view of gospel teaching.

Although there was no doubting Marcus Loane's evangelicalism, as archbishop he tried to allow breathing space to other Angican traditions in Sydney. Doubters of his tolerance should attend Mass at Christ Church St Laurence or visit Church Stores (Level 2, 428 George Street, Sydney), an Anglican shrine of what Catholics once called "Pellegrini art". In Loane's thinking, the Book of Common Prayer was a necessary protection from "the idiosyncracies of individual clergy". When speaking in tongues became fashionable, he pointed out that Jesus had been filled with the Spirit yet there was no record of his glossolalia.

In 1970, Marcus Loane got into world news when he refused to pray with Pope Paul VI on his visit to Sydney. He based this refusal on a reading of Vatican I's doctrine of papal supremacy, for which he received support from Protestant hard-liners. One supporter wrote, "Dear Archbishop, thank God someone has stood up to the great harlot of Babylon" - but the letter was delivered to the wrong archbishop; and when Cardinal Gilroy read it, he simply redirected it to Archbishop Loane.

Despite their theological differences, Loane was admired by Gilroy, who told one of his priests, "I like Archbishop Loane, he is a man of prayer". Reid's new biography validates Gilroy's assessment, for vital prayer is shown as the warm heart under Loane's somewhat glacial exterior. He encouraged his people to study the Bible seriously every day: "We need no other signs or wonders if we can take the Bible in our hands, kneel down in the presence of God and turn what we read in the language of prayer". A sentence that captures the essence of Marcus Loane - and Sydney Anglicanism, too.

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