Melbourne Synod to pick up baton on child protection measures
President delivers his opening address to Melbourne Synod 2017
By Chris Shearer
October 18 2017The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne’s 2017 Synod is underway, with child safety legislation, professional and episcopal standards measures, and sexual abuse survivor redress schemes set to dominate the next four business days.
Opening Synod at St Paul’s Cathedral last night, Archbishop Philip Freier delivered a wide-ranging address that outlined the steps the diocese had taken on major issues in the past year and the key areas this Synod would focus on.
[You can click the subheadings below to skip to that part of the Archbishop’s charge on YouTube]
Melbourne’s Synod begins only five weeks after the end of General Synod, where the national church met for the first time since 2014. Dr Freier noted that many of the decisions taken at General Synod were “historic” and would directly affect the work of Melbourne’s Synod.
“A significant part of our legislative agenda arises directly from the historic decisions taken at the 17th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia,” he said.
“It will become clear as we deal with the legislation in detail but our work consists in adopting the General Synod measures and in some cases modifying existing diocesan legislation to harmonise it with the arrangements agreed at General Synod.”
Dr Freier noted that Synod’s legislative agenda, informed as it is by the agreements made at General Synod, was so complex that it necessitated beginning Synod a day earlier than usual, but added it was essential that all business was attended to.
“The legislation for consideration from tomorrow night is significant,” he said on 17 October. “The protection of children with the national church is vital and urgent. The range of measures to be adopted may appear daunting but I hope, with careful explanation, members of Synod will understand why they are a necessary and essential next step.”
Dr Freier also informed Synod that in the last year the Diocese had implemented an interim redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse, and now had the opportunity of participating in the Commonwealth redress scheme. He also noted that the costs of redressing historical sexual abuse would “challenge our future budgeting” and that a variety of options needed to be considered to make up any shortfall.
Dr Freier informed Synod that the University of Melbourne, with funding from the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, is undertaking a review of the diocese’s Think Prevent domestic violence program to “hopefully establish the evidential basis of this work and encourage its wider application”.
Dr Freier said he was unsurprised that “an ugly side of pushing the debate” has emerged during the protracted same-sex marriage campaign, given that the postal survey had placed “more burden on community level groups and individuals to debate the pros and cons”.
“At some point our elected leaders have to embrace their responsibility and have a parliamentary debate on same-sex marriage. It will be the worst of all worlds if once the opinion poll results are announced that we descend into a debate about the legitimacy of the poll, the proportion of the electorate who returned their forms and so on,” he said, noting that religious freedom should be ensured in any future bill.
“We have wasted valuable time that could have been spent on real community consultation about the form of the legislative changes to be debated.”
This year’s Synod coincides with the Victorian Government’s efforts to push through legislation legalising euthanasia through State Parliament. Dr Freier, along with a number of Christian leaders across the state, has voiced his opposition to the proposed changes to the laws, and used his Synod address further outline his position.
“I recognise that among us there are those who hold passionate alternate views,” he said.
“It is right to seek to eliminate pain, but the ethical decisions in this desire always fall under the proscription of the sixth commandment, ‘You shall not murder’. Euthanasia and assisted suicide risk abandoning those who are in greatest need, who deserve our care and support.”
New growth initiatives
With Melbourne growing by roughly 150,000 people each year, the diocese has been planning for ways to better reach people in the Greater Melbourne and Geelong region, Dr Freier said.
Given the costs associated with brick-and-mortar installations in these new areas, though, a new focus was needed.
“The Anglican ministry presence we seek to establish in such places will be the work of our pioneers and church planters and the leaders of fresh expression Church, those with the God-given gifts for this demanding type of ministry,” Dr Freier said.
Dr Freier also praised the ongoing work of current ministries in parishes, schools, agencies and other organisations, saying:
“We certainly want to be more effective as a Christian presence in the diversity of local communities across Melbourne and Geelong and we aspire to see this in a number of practical and tangible ways and measurable outcomes.”
He said that the Church’s leaders of tomorrow were currently being trained, with currently around 40 candidates for ordination, as well more than 50 assistant curates in their first few years of ministry.
Dr Freier told Synod that major reviews of governance, property, investments and IT/communications had taken place with the aim of streamlining them to be better enablers of mission, and that Archbishop in Council was now considering the major findings.
He also noted that the diocese was now in the next phase of its Vision and Directions plan, and that a range of programs had grown or been put in place in the past year.
“We have already implemented a number of initiatives to invest appropriately in our people and ministry resources, with a view to seeing the vision we have for our diocese come to fruition,” he said.
“The list of functions and ministries in the diocese is very great just as it is in the most vital place were ministry happens - at the grassroots. Thanks to you all in your own distinctive place of ministry and worship for what you do in parishes, authorised congregations, chaplaincies and in many other contexts. This is the vital work of the church, as we seek to ‘Make the Word of God fully known’.”
For the full text of Archbishop Freier's speech, please download this file: presidents_adress_october_2017_final.docx