This week the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia met.
General Synod has a total membership of 250 members from 23 dioceses, with 73 of those membership positions taken by the Diocese of Sydney. Brisbane had 20 members, with myself and Tim Coates, our parish administrator, included in that number.
Although we are a church divided in opinions over many issues, it is important to note that there is so much that we can stand in unity, one with one another. When we speak of the triune God and the incarnation of Jesus the Christ and the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we speak as one. We can share so much as we talk about serving in the church and its mission and the longing to see the kingdom on earth. In the Easter season we can all proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
This week we passed many motions on compelling and weighty issues including;
- Significant commitments of resources to work for the prevention of family violence, including providing assistance to First Nations leaders and organisations. There have been statements of repentance about the way the church has enabled an environment where violence went unaddressed
- Called for a raising of the Jobseeker rate above the poverty line
- Called on the Australian Government to act for urgent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases and to meet the Paris global warming target on climate change
- Giving thanks for the work of Anglican Defence Chaplains and noting with concern the rates of suicide amongst Defence Force Veterans
- Voting to advise the Federal Attorney-General and the Meeting of Attorneys-General of the support of the Anglican synod for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years
- Condemned any behaviour within the church which is hurtful, disrespectful, insensitive, abusive or bullying towards LGBTI persons and apologised to all who have been treated in this way
- Celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Ordination of Women
These are just some of the issues upon which agreement was reached and commitments made.
There was considerable debate about issues around marriage and human sexuality. As this was the first meeting of the General Synod since the Marriage Equality plebiscite, there was much to discuss. It is highly significant given the nature of our synod and this being the first time such a motion has been presented, that 40% of members voted for affirming same sex marriage. For those who are interested, the speeches of the movers and seconders can be found here;
- “Affirming Same-Sex Marriage” – Matthew Anstey
- “Affirmation of Same-Sex Marriage” – Peter Sherlock
- “Same-Sex Marriage Final Speech” – Matthew Anstey
Our church has a long tradition of discerning the answers to ethical questions in process and over time. I am aware that there is great pain over these issues and understandable hurt and confusion for many in the LGBTI community as they watched the events of the week unfold. I am also aware of so many leaders in our churches seeking with great commitment and integrity to act justly and wisely.
I did find even amongst the times of fierce disagreement, the clear presence of the Spirit could be discerned doing what the Spirit always does – moving amongst God’s people with love and grace, inviting us to new beginnings together and a commitment to justice and peace.
Grace and peace,