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A hard moment to be proud of the church | Your say

27 May 2022

General Synod heralded to those outside the church our angst over human sexuality. What we are known for now is our disunity and inability to honour the face of God in all of God’s people. 

Wouldn’t we rather be known for grace-filled contributions to society showing the love of God?  

As an Anglican, I want to be proud of who we are as a church. At the moment this is not so easy.  

The earth is heating up and falling apart. General Synod responded to this, but did anyone outside the meeting hear about that?  

General Synod faced the terrible reality of people running for their lives from persecuting tyrants, domestic violence destroying the lives of so many and our teenagers committing suicide at alarming rates, but again, did anyone outside the meeting hear about that?  

All people outside the meeting heard about was the condemnation of same-sex relationships. 

Read more: Future of same-sex marriages may be left to individual dioceses: Melbourne leaders 

What on earth would Jesus have to say to us?  

As an ordained representative, people ask me what I think. I find myself having to explain the complexities of the Anglican church, name our differences and apologetically name the pain that we are causing to so many.  

We have a choice to be better. The world has moved on and we are stuck. Sadly, what we’re known for is a Puritan obsession with sex. Jesus came so that all may have life and have it abundantly. Let us get back to participating in God’s live-giving movement.  

Reverend Sophie Watkins 

Albert Park 

Time to follow other leadership 

In the lead-up to the recent General Synod meeting, the Primate Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith asked dioceses not to proceed with same-sex marriage blessings until the synod could express its mind. Well, it did express its mind. It refused to condemn the blessing of same-sex marriages. And in fact, General Synod went further. Astonishingly, almost 40 per cent of the membership declared that same-sex marriage – marriage, not just blessings – was “a moral good and a gift to be celebrated”. This from a General Synod dominated by the conservative Diocese of Sydney, which now has nearly 30 per cent of the membership, after decades of creeping “branch-stacking”. 

Archbishop Smith has warned that some bishops might stay away from bishops’ meetings if any dioceses move ahead with blessings, weakening unity. I well recall some people counselling against the ordination of women 30 years ago in case it upset the veneer of unity. It did not.  

Read more: So, what happened with the same-sex marriage debate on Thursday?

Unity is a sham when it is maintained simply to forestall threats and tantrums. Now is the time for the Anglican Church of Australia at long last to face its deep, intrinsic divisions honestly. The national church’s constitution gives dioceses great autonomy. The Diocese of Sydney capitalises on that autonomy to use its own prayer book, and its own marriage services, where in one version, brides promise to “submit” to their husbands. Neither the prayer book nor the marriage services have been authorised by General Synod. By a resolution of its 2010 Synod, it refused to accept the decision of the Appellate Tribunal that allowing deacons to preside at Holy Communion was unconstitutional. Other bishops have not stayed away from bishops’ meetings in an attempt to shame them.  

It is time other dioceses followed the leading of the Holy Spirit instead of the Diocese of Sydney when it comes to blessing same-sex marriages. 

Dr Muriel Porter 

Sydney’s strength lies in committed lay people 

Clergy and lay representation at General Synod is proportionate to the number of full-time clergy serving in a diocese. Is this fair? It all depends upon whether you place more weight on church attendances or census figures. At the time of the 2011 census the Sydney diocese had more clergy per census Anglicans than any other Australian diocese. However if you go by attendance, it is just the opposite. Sydney has the lowest number of clergy compared to church attendance, with about one cleric for every 100 weekly worshippers. The norm across other Australian Anglican dioceses is double this: about two clergy for every 100 worshippers. It is not Sydney, but other dioceses which have chosen to invest in high clergy-parishioner ratios. 

The reality is that a “census Anglican” in Sydney is five times as likely to be in church on a Sunday morning as a “census Anglican” in Brisbane, and two and a half times as likely as a census Anglican in Melbourne. The key to understanding Sydney Diocese’s strength at General Synod is not to be found in its wealth, but in its committed lay people, who turn out for church week by week. 

My figures are taken from the 2014 Viability and Structures Task Force Report to the Anglican General Synod. 

Reverend Dr Mark Durie 

Batemans Bay 

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