This next week is the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. It is likely there will be reports of this synod in the media and that not all who report will be aware of the role of General Synod. A statement from Newcastle Diocese included this clarification;
Sometimes there is a misunderstanding about the role of the General Synod in the life of this Church. In the Anglican Church of Australia, the responsibility to make decisions about the order and good government of a diocese falls to the Diocesan Synod, within the framework provided by the Constitution. This approach arose because of the historic and significant differences between the Dioceses and has perpetuated those differences. This is consistent with the Anglican ethos of living together with difference and honouring each other as partners in the Gospel.
The General Synod discussion will focus on LGBTIQA+ people. This week, some of our community attended talking circles to explore our response to the Appellate Tribunal findings that there is no barrier to the blessing of civil marriages, including those between same-sex couples. These were thoughtful and careful conversations characterised by the 3 habits of reconciliation as described by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year; being curious with others about the reasons for their different approach, remaining present to others when the exploration feels challenging, imagining the future together.
I hope these habits will also characterise our gathering at General Synod next week. To understand the pain that has been experienced by those diverse in gender and sexuality and some of the current context in the Anglican Church, I again quote from the statement from the Diocese of Newcastle;
For over 60 years Anglicans have been recalibrating their thinking and action in response to the frightened voice of these brothers and sisters who know themselves to be fearfully and wonderfully made. In tears, they have explored with heterosexual Christians their profound sense that they are bearers of the image of God and are committed to holiness. Anglicans made a commitment to listen to the experience of LGBTIQA+ people.
Anglicans affirm that LGBTIQA+ people are deeply loved by God. We affirm that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. Sixty years ago we affirmed decriminalising homosexual activity and have been involved in reforms ever since.
In our present age LGBTIQA+ people and their allies have spoken fully and openly of their continued sense of rejection by cultural, family, and religious communities as a direct contributor to their sense of poor well-being leading to self-harm, suicide risk, and suicide. We are listening to this. We can take practical action in our communities to minister with genuine welcome, care, and partnership in the Gospel. We can commit ourselves to ensuring that none of our ministry and mission is a cause of further alienation and harm. We must also acknowledge that there are attitudes, behaviours, and practices in churches which, have led and lead to long-lasting harm because of the way spiritual and pastoral power is used or perceived to be used.
We hold a sacred trust to listen to the Spirit and discern our way in these discussions, committing to one another, adopting the posture of the learner and together imagining a future together based on love and peace, justice and hope. I invite you to pray for the gathering of General Synod next week and for our Church to be a place of welcome and inclusion where we shall be known for the way we love one another.
Grace and peace,