3 December 2022

Synod votes to not vote on ‘Being the Body of Christ’

Delegates meet at General Synod. Picture: supplied.

12.30pm

And with that – and a prayer – the business sessions of General Synod have finished. Thank you all for tuning in, and for those who’ve sent in comments, clarifications and feedback.

If you do want to contact anyone on the team, you can reach us at editor@melbourneanglican.org.au.

You can read all our coverage of the week here:

Read more:

The key moments this morning were:

  • Delegates voted not to vote on a motion from Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain on Being the Body of Christ.
  • Ordained women’s contribution to worship, ministry and leadership in the Anglican Church of Australia was acknowledged. An amendment to the motion saying women exercise of “full spiritual authority as teachers and leaders” failed however.
  • Delegates supported a call to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia to 14.
  • Delegates condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

It’s been Elspeth Kernebone blogging with you today. You can follow The Melbourne Anglican on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to our weekly emails.

And jumping back to 11.05am, I have confirmed that synod passed a motion relating to exemption clauses for religious bodies, including the clause that synod:

  • Continues to affirm that marriage according to the rites and ceremonies of the Anglican Church of Australia is the voluntary union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness. The doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of our Church are expressed in the authorised liturgies of our church and there is currently no liturgy for the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage.

Given discussion in the past week, I’m surprised this drew no debate or commentary. You can read the motion in full in the image below. Apologies for the white on the cream background of the website, that jars my eyes as well.

12.25pm

Synod is onto thanking those who contributed. The list is long, so I won’t reproduce it in full here.

Primate Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith thanked members for on the whole, disagreeing well.

12.15pm

Women in ordained leadership’s contribution to worship, ministry and leadership in the Anglican Church of Australia has been acknowledged by General Synod.

A proposed amendment affirming that women priests and bishops “exercise full spiritual authority as teachers and leaders” was narrowly lost, 111 people voting for it, 117 against.

The motion noted that 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in Australia.

It was put to synod by Bishop of North Queensland Keith Joseph, and seconded by Brisbane representative Justice Debra Mullins.

The Melbourne Anglican has been running a series commemorating the 30 year anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. You can find our profiles of women in ordained ministry below.

Related content:

11.55am

Anglicans have expressed their opposition to euthanasia and assisted dying, in the context of legislation being considered by the NSW Parliament.

11.51am

Delegates voted not to put the motion Being the Body of Christ. So that seems to mean they’ve voted not to vote on it.

The motion was put by Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain, who described it as a statement of relational intent.

11.50am

Delegates are now voting on whether or not the motion should be put.

I think the amendment might have been lost, the process got a bit confusing there.

11.45am

Delegates narrowly voted to accept the amendment emphasising Scripture and the Creeds as the source of faith. A total 119 were in favour of the amendment, 113 against.

Read more:

They also voted in favour of the second part of the amendment. This means “theological and” will remain in the motion, so it acknowledges “several theological and spiritual cultures” within the Anglican Church of Australia.

11.40am

Delegates are voting electronically as to whether to accept the first half of an amendment proposed to a motion Being the Body of Christ.

This amendment would add three dotpoints, with an emphasis on Scripture and the Creeds as the source of doctrine.

11.30am

Mover Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain said he had been “a victim of his own intent”, putting in the motion Being the Body of Christ early, hoping it would come to the synod early, as a statement of relational intent. He said he put the motion because the manner in which the Church conducted its business, ran the risk of corrupting the outcome.

Bishop Brain said too often the matters of processes and parliaments were not suited for the task at hand, which were essentially relationally.

He put the motion to the synod in its unamended form, saying in his opinion the changes made it a different motion.

The motion as originally put calls on General Synod to:

  • Acknowledge several theological and spiritual traditions within the Anglican Church of Australia.
  • Recognise that the persons within each culture adhere to it for reasons of belief conscientiously held in adherence to holy scripture as well as social identity.
  • Welcome the strengths that Anglican diversity brings.

It calls on Anglicans to:

  • Respect on another’s cultures.
  • Build on what they have in common.
  • “Affirm that the separation of any one of us diminishes us all”.
  • And, where Anglicans differ seek in the spirit of Philippians 3:13 to discover each other’s faith as it is today, and appeal to history only for enlightenment, not as a way of perpetuating past controversy. Philippians 3:13 reads “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”.

The motion was seconded by the Reverend Professor Dorothy Lee.

A speaker who did not state his name put an amendment, saying he had spoken with Bishop Brain about this earlier in the week.

The amendment reads:

That this General Synod:

  • rejoices in the Christian Faith professed by the Church of Christ from the New Testament, and in particular set forth in the Creeds
  • joyfully recommits to respectful and reverent reading, teaching and preaching of the canolical Scriptures as our ultimate rule and standard of faith, inspired by God and containing all things necessary for salvation.
  • Humbly re-expresses its determination to obey the commands of Christ and teach his doctrine as these are given to us in Scripture.

It also cuts the words “theological and” from the original first point.

11.15am

Delegates have passed a motion commending the Appellate Tribunal in dealing with liturgical innovations arising from changes to the Marriage Act 1961. This motion originally read “as amended in 2019”, it should indeed have been 2017.

11.05am

This motion was indeed carried with little debate, just one delegate asking for a small spelling change.

Read more:

I didn’t quite get the last-minute amendments, but the motion noted Australia’s obligations to uphold freedom of religion is in part acquitted by means of legislative exemption clauses for religious bodies. These obligations are under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

It noted that these exemptions conformed to the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of that religion.

It also noted the 2020 Majority Opinion of the Appellate tribunal distinguished between doctrine in the technical sense, and in the broader sense.

The original motion included this clause: “Continues to affirm that marriage according to the rites and ceremonies of the Anglican Church of Australia is the voluntary union of one man and one woman arising from mutual promises of lifelong faithfulness, and that it would not conform to the beliefs and teachings of our Church for clergy to solemnise a marriage between a same-sex couple.”

It’s not clear to me whether it passed with that clause or not, I’m just double checking.

11am

We’re back! Sydney representative the Right Reverend Dr Michael Stead is moving a motion about exemptions clauses for religious bodies, which he said has been amended in a huddle over morning tea.

He believes it will pass fairly easily. Synod President Archbishop Geoffrey Smith says “it’s a wonderful hope”.

10.25pm

Synod members participating by Zoom have been thrown up on the screen, for a greeting with those appearing in person.

This included several Melbourne representatives.

The synod has broken for morning tea, back at 10.55am.

10.20

Synod delegates have called for Australia to raise the age of Criminal Responsibility from 10 to 14.

Delegates passed the motion from Bishop Chris McLeod after about 30 minutes’ discussion.

The motion called for President of General Synod Archbishop Geoffrey Smith will write to the federal Attorney General and the meeting of attorney generals conveying the resolution and support to it.

10.15

A motion calling for synod to support an increase in the age of Criminal Responsibility in Australia to 14 has sparked nearly half an hour’s debate.

This issue has been the subject of an Australia-wide campaign, #RaiseTheAge. The current age of Criminal Responsibility in Australia is 10 years old.

The motion’s Bishop Chris McLeod said the low age of criminal responsibility primarily affected First Nations children in Australia.

“The incarceration of children, and conviction with a criminal offence, sets up [poor] life outcomes,” Bishop McLeod said.

He said 80 per cent of juvenile First Nations offenders would move on to adult prison.

Bishop McLeod said the issue was closely linked to high rates of deaths in custody for First Nations people.

Read more:

He said the Christian church a role to play in ministering to the community.

“As a Christian church we know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save, not only in the world to come, but in this world as well,” Bishop McLeod said.

“It’s an indictment on our society that after 200 years of occupation of this nation First Nations people and children, are still the most incarcerated people in Australia.

“Jesus said ‘Let the little children come to me … for it is such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs to’.”

The motion was seconded by the Reverend Professor Peter Sandeman said members of the Church had to support their Indigenous brothers and sisters to break the cycle of incarceration.

One delegate has asked a question of the mover, as to the alternatives to incarcerations for the community’s safety in a situation where children between 10 and 14 committed violence offences.

A second delegate has spoken about the murder of English boy of James Bulger in 1990 by two 10-year-olds.

He said raising the age of criminal responsibility would not solve the problem, and would introduce other problems. He said this would disproportionately affect the future victims of people between 10 and 14 who committed crimes.

Diocese of Bunbury representative Dr Renae Barker said keeping the age at 10 was almost guaranteeing further criminality, urging representatives to vote to #RaiseTheAge.

Dr Barker spoke about research she had done worldwide on the age children were given autonomy.

She contrasted the example of the James Bulger murder with a similar offence by children in Scandinavia around the same time, in which all children involved had been kept anonymous.

9.45am

“The clear and flagrant breach of international law” by Russia invading Ukraine has been deplored by General Synod.

Read more: Anglican Church in ‘perilous’ position after failing to define marriage as one man, one woman: Raffel

Delegates voted unanimously to condemn the invasion, and call on brothers and sisters of the Russian Orthodox and Protestant churches to use their voices to oppose the situation.

The synod prayed for the situation in Ukraine immediately after passing this motion.

9.30am

Just one person has needed to isolate in their accommodation during General Synod due to COVID-19, according to Australian Primate Archbishop Geoffrey Smith. The answer came in response to a question from a delegate.

We’ve also had a question querying the plural of “diocese”.

I missed the answer from Brisbane representative Justice Debra Mullins, but we’ve had an email from Melbourne delegate Fiona McLean confirming that Justice Mullins said there were a few acceptable pronunciations, according to Wikipedia.

The question did draw a loud laugh from assembled delegates!

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

A motion has been passed requesting the Standing Committee consider provision for a full stiped and travel allowance for the National Aboriginal Bishop and the National Torres Strait Islander Bishop and to bring a proposal to the next General Synod. Mover Bishop Keith Joseph spoke to the motion, which was passed quickly.

Synod has also quickly agreed to call on several countries – including Australia – to immediately cease and desist the design, construction or commissioning any new coal-fired power stations, and requesting the Standing Committee to consider how to communicate this in the strongest possible terms to each country.

Earlier

Good morning! Elspeth Kernebone here to fill you in on the final day of General Synod.

In the two business sessions this morning before delegates leave, it looks like today we have motions including the list below.

There’s also an order of the day relating to exemptions clauses for religious bodies.

  • A call to the age of criminal responsibility to 14. It’s currently 10 in Australia.
  • A commendation of the Appellate Tribunal in dealing with liturgical innovations arising from changes to the Marriage Act 1961. This motion reads “as amended in 2019”, I’m not sure if that should be 2017 (when same-sex marriage was legalised), or if there was another change I don’t know about.
  • Being the Body of Christ, a motion from Bishop of Bendigo Matt Brain and Trinity College’s the Reverend Professor Dorothy Lee calling on Anglicans to respect each other’s cultures, build on what they hold in common, and where they differ to seek in the spirit of Philippians 3.13.
  • A motion relating to the Unity of the Church moved by Bishop Ian Coutts, seconded by Bishop Greg Anderson, noting division over the issue of same-sex marriage, and recommend the synod earnestly desire that respectful dialogue continue, and commit to engage with respect, listening and love for each other.
  • A motion noting the 30th anniversary of the ordination as priests of the first women in the Anglican Church of Australia, and acknowledging their contribution to worship ministry and leadership in the Anglican Church.
  • Thanking God for the publication of Kriol Preya Buk in the Diocese of the Northern Territory.
  • Requesting the Standing Committee consider provision for a full stiped and travel allowance for the National Aboriginal Bishop and the National Torres Strait Islander Bishop and to bring a proposal to the next General Synod.
  • A motion thanking the treasurer and staff for clear and comprehensive financial reports in Book 3, and requesting the standing committee to explore ways of reducing costs and funding to significantly reduce the Statutory Assessment, and return to the practice of sending the budget months prior to each General Synod.
  • Opposing euthanasia legislation.
  • Calling for palliative care funding.
  • Deploring the breach of international law by the Russian government in invading Ukraine.
  • Coal fired power stations.
  • And thanking Dr Barry Newman for his “passionate approach to the business of General Synod” in what is likely his last time as representative, and a similar motion for Peter Young AO QC.

You can read our previous coverage of General Synod below.

If you want to contact me about anything, send me an email at editor@melbourneanglican.org.au.

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