27 September 2022

Ministry wellbeing and development policies endorsed | General Synod Day 1

The 18th General Synod of the Anglican Church in Australia has begun. Picture: iStock

9pm

Elspeth Kernebone here, signing off for the night. We hope you’ve enjoyed our first day’s coverage of the 2022 General Synod.

8.30pm

Dioceses and agencies have been urged to work to reduce their emissions by General Synod.

The synod passed a motion calling on the church to recognise the global climate emergency as a crisis for God’s creation, and encourage dioceses and agencies to reduce their carbon emissions.

The motion was moved by the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, a representative of the Diocese of Brisbane.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council representative Aunty Rose Elu spoke in favour of addressing climate change, saying God’s creation was for all of us – and warning of the consequences for young people. She said it was inevitable Torres Strait islands would go under water.

Diocese of Bathurst Bishop the Right Reverend Mark Calder asked how to balance growing ministries with conserving resources.

In response, Dr Catt said the planet was a gift to be taken care of, but care of the planet would also create income and resources for ministry. He used the insurance bill of his cathedral as an example, saying it had risen $90,000 the previous year.

Those speaking in favour of the motion included the Reverend Canon Professor Dorothy Lee of Trinity College.

8.15pm

The Anglican Church of Australia has called for an immediate raise to the rate of JobSeeker, to put it above the poverty line.

The motion called for JobSeeker to be raised above the poverty line, and an independent Social Security Commission to set government payments, to make sure they never fall below the poverty line.

The motion called for a redesign of the Jobactive System to encourage more effective participation in job search and training. It also called for recognition of the legitimate contributions made by by people receiving JobSeeker benefits who volunteer, or provide unpaid care.

8pm

Synod has passed three items relating to safe ministry resources and safe churches.

Item 16.17 saw synod note the Standing Committee’s endorsement of a resource about providing pastoral support to people affected by sexual abuse, and encourage dioceses to make the resource available to clergy and church workers providing pastoral care.

The synod also commended the National Council of Churches in Australia for organising the Safer Churches Conference on transforming the culture of safeguarding within Australian churches.

The synod also welcomed guidelines to enhance the safety of all persons, including children, young people and vulnerable adults. It voted to ask the Safe Ministry Commission to review the guidelines, and report to the standing committee on any steps necessary to implement them.

7.45pm

A professional standards policy for ministry wellbeing has been endorsed by General Synod.

Diocese of Gippsland representative the Reverend Tracy Lauersen moved the motion, which was carried by synod representatives.

Ms Lauersen moved that the synod noted recommendations 16.4, 16.44 and 16.45 from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse calling for national mandatory standards for professional development, professional/pastoral supervision and performance appraisals.

Ms Lauersen moved that the synod endorse a Ministry Wellbeing and Development: Policy, Guidelines and Resources document by the standing committee.

Seconder Bishop Ian Coutts said that clergy already participating in the program had responded well to it, in answer to a question about whether there was a plan to support clergy in their engagement with the professional development.

Diocese of Melbourne lay representative Jenny George said professional supervision was pervasive in the business industry, commending the motion to the synod.

Ms George said burnout was a known risk for ministers, but putting the right practices in place could reduce risk. She said supervision could help ensure long and fruitful ministries.

“Supervision and professional development are an extra support that many clergy would appreciate,” Ms George said.

7.30pm

Hello, Elspeth Kernebone here taking over the live blog for the evening.

5.30pm

The motion under discussion now is 16.13 Safe Ministry – Child Safety Regulatory Environment, moved by Audrey Mills and seconded by Dianne Shay. The motion is requesting the Standing Committee establish a group to review the compliance, audit and reporting obligations of dioceses under the Safe Ministry to Children Canon 2017.

Questions from the floor about the motion. Discussion about how well state and national legislation can work together. The motion is carried.

16.14 Safe Ministry Priorities, being moved by Audrey Mills and seconded by Dianne Shay, is next on the agenda. The motion requests the Safe Ministry Commission measure and review the Church’s progress towards being a child safe institution in light of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and report to the Standing Committee.

One question about the motion. The motion is carried.

That’s the afternoon session over. The evening session is next after evening prayer and dinner.

5pm

Discussion has now turned to Bill 2 – A Bill for the Episcopal Standards (Child Protection) (Amendment) Cannon 2022.

A question as to where power lies for a bishop to be suspended. The answer is that power to suspend is sufficiently implied by the legislation.

A motion is carried to approve the bill in principle.

Discussion of an amendment to the bill regarding the mandatory suspension of a bishop. Primate Smith states that he doesn’t want the bill to proceed as a special bill for reasons of timing.

The Synod votes that the legislation will not be a special bill. The bill is passed a few minutes later.

Discussion has now turned to Bill 3 – A Bill for the Constitution Amendment (Mandatory Suspension) Canon 2022. Synod votes that the bill be passed.

Next bill up for discussion is Bill 4- A Bill for the Constitution Amendment (Mandatory Deposition) Canon 2022. Garth Blake is moving the bill, which is being seconded by Audrey Mills. The bill is passed.

Bill R01 – A Bill for a Rule to Amend Rule 2 – Standing Committee (Conflict of Interest) 2022 is now up for discussion and debate.

The bill is passed.

A vote of thanks from the Primate to Garth Blake, who is a Sydney barrister and who has contributed extensive legal assistance to the Anglican Church over many years. Garth Blake is now giving a speech of thanks and appreciation.

4.30pm

There is further discussion about the Bill for the Safe Ministry Legislation Amendments Canon 2022, including amendments to the legislation. Many of the amendments are quite technical.

There is discussion about the phrase “willfully shutting one’s eyes (to sexual abuse)” that was used in 2017 legislation and whether it is a legal term.

Further discussion about the exact wording to be used in the legislation amendments. There is particular discussion about the responsibility of bishops in cases of sexual abuse.

Discussion about the terms “reasonable excuse” and “recommendation”.

Discussion of the bill is being put aside for the time being.

4pm

Synod has resumed after afternoon tea. Bill 1- A Bill for the Safe Ministry Legislation Amendments Canon 2022 is under discussion. Mr Garth Blake is speaking in favour of the bill, which aims to further improve child safety in the national church.

Mr Blake is giving a history over recent decades of what the church has done in this area and also the “systemic failure” of church leaders to deal with the issue. He is now talking about the Royal Commission’s findings in 2017 over sexual abuse and the Commission’s recommendations to the Anglican Church.

The bill is “an extremely complex piece of legislation”, said Mr Blake. The bill is in seven parts – parts one to six and a schedule.

Mr Blake noted that it is possible for a diocese to adopt all of the bill, or just parts of the bill.

He is giving a detailed rundown of what a sexual offence is defined as. Image-based abuse – sexual photos distributed over social media – is now included in this offence.

He is now talking about the sexual abuse that occurred in the Diocese of Newcastle and the failure of clergy to stop sexual abuse. The bill will aim to stop such neglect occurring again.

The bill proposes that the measures to be taken against bishops who are convicted of sexual offences, including being deposed from Holy Orders.

There is a moral and social imperative as to why the bill should be passed, said Mr Blake.

We must do everything we can to protect children and the best way to do that is to have a national approach, he said.

Mr Blake has recommended the bill be passed in principle. Now, questions from the floor.

There is a question from the floor about what “occasional ministry” is defined as. A further question about “conflicts of interest” in the Special Tribunal. More questions about wording of the bill.

The bill is carried.

3pm

Bill 9 – A Bill for the Episcopal Standards Investigations Amendment Canon 2022 is under discussion. Justice Debra Mullins is moving the bill and Dr Carolyn Tan is seconding. Amendments to the bill are being proposed. Archbishop Freier has raised a question about the bill and there are further questions about the bill from the floor.

The Synod is adjourned for afternoon tea until 3.30pm.

Discussion of Bill 8 – A Bill for the Special Tribunal (Removal from Office) Canon 2022, which is being moved by Dr Robert Tong. Dr Tong is seeking to add some words to the bill for purposes of clarity.

Justice Debra Mullins is seconding the bill and is speaking in favour of it.

Members of laity have raised questions about the bill. Dr Tong and Justice Mullins have responded. There is a question querying how the process might avoid being politicized. Following a suggestion from Primate Geoffrey Smith, who is chairing the Synod, discussion on the bill has been adjourned.

2.30pm

Archbishop Philip Freier is speaking in favour of Bill 7, a Bill for a Defence Force Ministry (Amendment) Canon 2022. He spoke of the importance of having a full-time bishop for defence ministry. Until now, it has been part-time. Mr Alan Gallimore is seconding.

There is question from the floor about the lack of discussion with chaplains over this issue and the removal of the retirement age (65) for the relevant bishop. Archbishop Freier responded to the questions with a defence of the bill. Mr Alan Gallimore also spoke in favour of the bill.

Michael Bird from the Diocese of Melbourne spoke in favour of the bill. There is another question from the floor questioning the lack of consultation about the bill.

Archbishop Freier has responded again to criticism of the bill, saying “this is a motion we can confidently support”. The bill is passed.

Bill 6 – a Bill for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (Amendment) Canon 2022 – is passed.

Justice Debra Mullins, who is seconding Bill 6, is speaking in favour of the motion.

2pm

Bill 6 – a Bill for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (Amendment) Canon 2022 – under discussion by Bishop Chris McLeod, who is seeking to move the motion.

Justice Debra Mullins moved Bill 5 – that a bill for the Constitution (Repeal of Canon Number 9 of 2010) Canon 2022 be approved in principle. It was seconded by Justice Michael Meek. Justice Mullins called the bill “a tidying-up” bill. The bill was passed.

The Directors of Professional Standards motion was carried.

The Broughton Publishing – Anglican Church of Australia Directory motion was carried.

The Australian Anglicans Worship motion was carried.

1.45pm

The Mission to Seafarers motion was carried, calling on General Synod to receive the report of the Mission to Seafarers. The motion also calls on federal and state governments to take seriously their responsibility under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 to fully fund shore-based Seafarer welfare centers.

1.30pm

Hello, it’s journalist Stephen Cauchi taking over the live blog of General Synod from Kirralee Nicolle.

12:20pm

A motion put forward by Archbishop Phillip Aspinall AC of the Diocese of Brisbane, which seeks to ensure more effective collaboration between the Anglican Church of Australia and the Lutheran Church of Australia, has been passed.

11:50am

The Reverend Associate Professor Matthew Anstey of the Diocese of Adelaide put forward two Notices of Motion regarding firstly, the handling of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Australia and secondly, the understanding of same-sex marriage in Anglican schools.

Dr Anstey requested in his first Notice of Motion that the church “acknowledge the continual evolution within the Anglican church” regarding the concept of marriage, and affirm “same-sex marriage as a moral good”.

In his second Notice of Motion, Dr Anstey called the recent actions by the Diocese of Sydney to ensure leaders in their schools do not affirm same-sex marriage as “distressing”, and said that this move causes the church to be “seen as judgmental, unsafe and discriminatory”.

The first Notice of Motion requested that the Anglican General Synod affirm same-sex marriage, as Dr Anstey said that the “doctrine of marriage has been changed” already over time.

The second Notice of Motion pertained to the recent move by the Diocese of Sydney to update the Statement of Faith used in schools to reflect the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, according to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.

11:35am

Petitions, Notices of Questions and Notices of Motions are being presented to Synod. This included a notice of a motion by Reverend Dr Michael Bird of the Melbourne Diocese to move that the Australian Government establish tighter controls around gambling advertisements and credit card usage in gambling machines.

11:20am

A motion moved by General Secretary of the Synod Ms Anne Hywood was passed to amend standing orders regarding the arrangement of Synod business, including granting permission to Reverend Tracy Lauersen of the Gippsland Diocese to report on findings by the Family Violence Working Group.

11am

A motion moved by Archdeacon Arthur Copeman of the Melbourne Diocese has been passed to elect Officers of the Synod, including a Clerical Secretary and a Lay Secretary of Synod, a Chair and Deputy Chairs of Committees, a Committee of Elections and Qualifications and Members of a Committee to Arrange the Order of Business.

11am

Hello, journalist Kirralee Nicolle taking over the live blog from Elspeth Kernebone for the morning business sessions of General Synod.

10am

Anglicans have been urged to have a grace-filled discussion of the blessing of same-sex unions at General Synod, as diocese representatives discuss the issue at the church’s first synod since these were legalised in Australia.

In his President’s Address, Australian Primate Archbishop of Adelaide Geoffrey Smith spoke about the context in which the General Synod was meeting, naming same-sex unions among the key aspects of context.

Bishop Smith urged representatives to repent of tribalism dressed up as theology or scripture, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit through prayer. He said the people of the church needed to model loving each other, as Christ had loved them.

Speaking about the context of COVID-19, he said there was a feeling of tiredness and short-temperedness in the general community – and within the church.

Read more: First ever livestream for General Synod

Bishop Smith said challenges to the church included a drop in attendance, a rise in calls for assistance, and a loss of momentum in terms of strategic activity.

He said he was aware that there was an underlying anxiety within the General Synod about possibility of COVID-19 infection during the event.

Bishop Smith said rising interest rates, rising house prices and rents, were causing significant anxiety in the community, and were being weaponised in the upcoming federal election.

He also spoke about the changes to the Australian Marriage Act in December 2017, defining marriage as between two people, saying he hoped synod would be able to discuss the topic in a way that was grace-filled.

Bishop Smith also named climate change, the place of First Nations people in Australian society, and the “blight” of domestic and family violence as key issues within the synod’s context.

9.30am

General Synod delegates will be able to vote remotely if they are isolating with COVID-19 after attendees passed a canon allowing members to participate via videoconference.

Earlier

Delegates have assembled across Australia on the Gold Coast for the first business session of the 18th Anglican Church of Australia General Synod.

Attendees arrived on Sunday for the first day of the synod.

The blessing of same-sex unions is among the items on the agenda for General Synod delegates, after the 2019 Wangaratta same-sex blessing was referred to the Appellate Tribunal by then Primate Philip Freier.

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