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Cathedrals places of sanctuary and growth, say Anglican deans

Australia's cathedral deans meet in Townsville and consider ministry, controversy and opportunity

August 9 2016The deans of Australia’s Anglican cathedrals have met in Townsville, with the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, welcoming growth in their ministry and Brisbane’s Dean, Dr Peter Catt, speaking of cathedrals as leaders of social change, such as the Sanctuary and “Let Them Stay” campaigns to prevent the deportation of asylum seekers.

Dr Loewe said many Australian cathedrals had reported congregational growth.

“It was a joy to hear how many of our Cathedrals are experiencing growth in their ministry of equipping people to hear and follow the call of Christ,” he said.

“In our discussions we reflected on what it means to belong together as a family of believers, and how we can help bring together local congregations and visitors. One of the privileges of being a Cathedral is to be a home church both for our diocesan family, and to offer a… welcome that enables visitors to share in the ministry of daily prayer.”

Dr Catt, the senior Dean in Australia, said the conference reflected on the capacity of Cathedrals to lead social change and on the cost of embracing such opportunities.

“Anglican Cathedrals were leaders in the Sanctuary and ‘Let Them Stay’ campaigns, which prevented the deportation of almost 300 asylum seekers,” Dr Catt said. “As a result of this important advocacy, people from many backgrounds found a common ground with the Christian message of welcome, which led to a positive change in public opinion.”

The deans heard reports on the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the newly established Royal Commission into the Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Northern Territory.

They expressed grief at the hurt and trauma caused by clergy and church workers, and strongly condemned any form of abuse. They reported on safeguarding measures in their own cathedrals, affirmed the importance of public acknowledgement and repentance for past wrongs, and the need for transparency and openness of conversation to enable a process of healing and the prevention of future abuse.

The Dean of Darwin, the Very Revd Keith Joseph, said Territorians were very aware of the issues of child abuse, especially the cruel abuse of Aboriginal children over many decades.

“Our national Church needs to do more and move quickly on issues of redress for victims, recognising that we are one Body of Christ and therefore together are responsible. We give thanks for the work of the national Royal Commission and commend the newly appointed Royal Commission looking into issues in the Northern Territory.”

Other areas considered by the deans included:

  • Promoting the good news among enquirers, migrants and others who find their way into Cathedrals, and through the civic ministry of Cathedral churches;
  • Reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, including fostering of relationships and opportunities for joint worship;
  • Ministry among refugees and advocacy for asylum seekers, including participation of many Cathedrals in the national Sanctuary and ‘Let Them Stay’ movements;
  • Theological education, including fostering distance learning opportunities in rural areas;
  • Challenges to sustaining ministry provision in rural dioceses and remote areas;
  • Clergy well-being and increased opportunities for shared collegiate support in Cathedral ministry;
  • Climate change and the challenge of extreme weather events, including exploring the use of new technologies to reduce carbon emissions;
  • Cathedral governance, including the current review of three Cathedral Statutes and Acts across Australia;
  • Fiscal sustainability and ministry resourcing of Cathedrals; and
  • Heritage concerns and opportunities for outreach and civic engagement offered by the development of Cathedral precincts, especially in Adelaide, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

The conference was attended by 20 deans at St James’ Cathedral, seat of the vast Diocese of North Queensland, from 4-9 August. St James’ is mother church of a diocese stretching from Sarina, just south of Mackay, to the Torres Strait Islands, and from the Coral Sea to the Northern Territory border.

Two new deans were welcomed to the gathering – the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel, from St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, and the Very Revd Mary Lewis, from the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul in Port Pirie (Willochra diocese).

Next year’s conference is to be held in Bendigo in August.