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Some news from Sydney Synod October 2018

by Lyn Bannerman, Parish of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney


Bathurst Diocese—Sydney to support financially

Bathurst Diocese is in dire financial straits, largely attributed to an extreme over-commitment to finance a couple of new schools (now purchased by Sydney Diocese). The Synod agreed to provide financial support of $250,000 per year towards the costs of a Bishop and his Registrar for that Diocese for a period of six years, on the condition that any fresh Bishop appointment in that period has the written support of the Archbishop of Sydney.

Sydney Diocese now has significant capacity to influence the directions of that Diocese. The current Bishop will retire in April 2019; our Archbishop will offer two suggested names for their consideration; their Synod will consider these and others, if they wish, but the final choice must be approved in writing by the Archbishop of Sydney. Moore College will send annually a mission team to that Diocese, and there is an expectation that some Moore College graduates will move to rural vacancies in the Diocese.

The Reverend Andrew Sempell (St James, King St., Sydney) moved that some many millions be offered to that Diocese as the amount of $250,000 is trivial, given the dire situation. Fr Andrew expected this amendment to fail but it gave him the chance to point out that unless the Endowment of the See is restored to a firm financial position, the Diocese will still be broke in six years' time. Another lay representative sought to provide the Bathurst Diocese financial assistance without any conditions, as a gift of Love and Grace. Conditions imply no trust; compassion requires no strings attached. Both amendments were lost.

Lyn Bannerman

Lyn Bannerman

Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the proposed separation of some parishes from the Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia Province

In summary, Synod noted with deep regret the recent decision by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia to allow the blessing of same-sex civil marriages. The Synod, among other things—

  • gave thanks for the courageous leadership of biblically faithful Anglicans in New Zealand and Polynesia remaining true to the teaching of Christ irrespective of the relational and material cost, and called upon parishes in this Diocese to pray for these faithful Anglicans,
  • noted that GAFCON, Australia has launched an appeal (through Anglican Aid) to provide emergency financial support for these ministers and their families, and encouraged the parishes and people of this Diocese to consider making a contribution as a practical expression of fellowship with New Zealand brothers and sisters.

Our Archbishop, in expressing his concerns, said: 'As Bishop Donald Robinson once told me, the most important part that the minister plays in solemnising a marriage is to pronounce God's blessing and God does not bless sin.' Archbishop Glenn spoke of his recent visit to New Zealand. Concerned parishes plan to disaffiliate, taking their property with them, and form a new parallel Anglican Church across Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Such parallel jurisdictions are not unknown now in the Anglican Communion. Synod agreed to divert some of its Budget to the disaffiliating parishes and individuals and parishes were invited to contribute financially.

GAFCON meeting, Jerusalem

The Reverend Dr Peter Jensen also reported to Synod on the latest GAFCON Conference, which met in Jerusalem in June this year.

This movement started as a group of Churches around the world concerned that some Anglican Provinces were acting in various ways in defiance of the Lambeth Decision in 1998, which affirmed that there are 'only two expressions of faithful sexuality: lifelong marriage between a man and a woman or abstinence.' Nearly 2,000 met from 50 countries consisting of 1,950 Anglicans (316 Bishops, 669 other clergy and 965 laity).

Dr Jensen described GAFCON as the next major reformation of our Church since The Reformation. Despite its beginnings, Dr Jensen insists this is a broad based movement concerned with the spread of 'gospel truth'. It is interesting to note that Sydney's adherence to the so-called 'Biblical truth' of complementarianism is not an agreed GAFCON 'doctrine', as women priests belong to this new 'reformation' movement.

Synod further resolved to express 'its fellowship with Anglicans within the GAFCON movement independent of their 'recognition' by the Archbishop of Canterbury'.

Responding to domestic abuse: policy and good practice guidelines

These have been finally approved and are being sent to professional publishers for lay out and presentation, to be distributed to all parishes, clergy, senior lay people. This is one of the best pieces of work from Synod, thanks to several hard years of work by Canon Sandy Grant and Archdeacon Kara Hartley.

Also we must acknowledge the contribution by the Reverend Mark Tough (St Clement's Lalor Park) for his assistance in establishing an inclusion in Synod's budget, for the first time, the capacity to provide grants to clergy spouses who are in great financial need because of leaving domestic abuse. And thanks to the extraordinary dedication of journalist, Julia Baird, who first raised concerns and never gave up.

Sacrificial leadership/submission of women in marriage

Susan Hooke (St Peter's Cremorne) moved the following amended motion, the amendments guaranteeing its passage without debate:

Synod, noting that it has been sadly aware for some years of the misuse by some husbands of the biblical teaching on marriage to justify abuse of their wives, requests the Diocesan Doctrine Commission: to acknowledge the extreme urgency of addressing prevention of domestic abuse of women within our Diocesan churches; and therefore to bring to Synod in 2019, and no later, its conclusions on the referral to it, by Standing Committee, concerning how "the Biblical material on... the nature of marriage, including the relevance of submission and headship, intersects with domestic abuse, its prevention, and the care of victims in our minds".

We hope this motion will open the door to a significant debate in Synod next year on the 'complementarian' view of marriage (the wife submits to the husband's sacrificial leadership), its relationship to domestic abuse and the alternative view of marriage, based on love, respect and mutual honouring of each other.

Remarriage of divorced persons

The following motion was moved by Lyn Bannerman, (Christ Church Saint Laurence) and seconded by the Reverend Phillip Bradford (St Luke's, Enmore):

Synod, noting that it is the prerogative of the Archbishop or a Regional Bishop, in accordance with the laws of this Church, whether or not to approve the remarriage of a divorced person, requests the Archbishop and Regional Bishops to consider approving the remarriage of a divorced person, where that person has been abused physically or emotionally by their former spouse.

As the motion makes clear, we must await a decision from the Archbishop. The debate lasted over two hours with the Secretariat (who must keep minutes) noting the unusually large use of procedural motions, on top of each other, with the usual attempt at a gag. The constant re-scheduling of this agenda item, by the managers of Synod business, seemed designed to never let it reach debate (thereby falling off at the end of Synod as unresolved business) but the Reverend Mark Tough, (St Clement's Lalor Park) moved a procedural motion on the last day of Synod, saying that this was a case of procedural unfairness. He read a statement quoting from an affected ex-clergy wife. This was an emotional plea to have the matter heard. The matter was restored to the Agenda and was heard as the last major item of Synod business.

Speeches in favour included matters such as: this is an important pastoral matter and we owe a decision now to our own abused women, including clergy wives, to whom an apology was offered last Synod; "it's time" as for 34 years the Doctrine Commission has failed to reach a conclusion despite a number of active reviews since 1984; the consideration of issues around 'desertion' and 'reconciliation' have been well addressed in the agreed Guidelines on Responding to Domestic Abuse; and 'it's a no brainer'.

The 'No' side, including the Principal of Moore College, argued essentially that such a divorce is complex scripturally and theologically and more time is needed. There was a message from some speaking for the 'No' case that women must endure—a kind of sainthood idea, with rewards in the next world.

One amendment which sought to refer the matter again to the Doctrine Commission just lost on a count of raised hands: 227 votes for the amendment and 257 against. Finally the motion won with a secret ballot: 325 for, 161 against and 1 informal. At the end of debate, the Archbishop said he was grateful the matter had been brought to Synod, and he would respond as soon as possible.