2 March 2024

Clergy shortage, biblical marriage on Melbourne Synod agenda

Discussions at the upcoming synod in Melbourne will include the number of parish vacancies. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

15 September 2022

Upholding biblical marriage and parish vacancies will be key issues on the agenda at the 53rd Melbourne Synod in October, according to agenda documents.

Gender balance and the Archbishop Election Act are also listed as priorities for debate, as are Anglican childcare facilities and kindergartens.

Parish vacancies

The large number of vacant parishes will be discussed, and synod will be asked to consider a proposal to review the existing professional development program, and the career span and training of ministers.

Discussions are expected to highlight the challenges the gap in clergy numbers presents. 

These include a heavy non-pastoral workload and the potential for burnout among clergy.

The assembly will also be asked to underscore the identification and development of future clergy.

Upholding biblical marriage

The synod will be asked to revisit the issue of the same-sex marriage blessing, which drew strong debate at the General Synod in May.

At the time two motions about it were raised.

One sought to define marriage in the Anglican Church as “the exclusive union of one man and one woman”, and the other to affirm same sex marriage within the Church.

Arguments supporting same-sex unions included that marriage should not be an issue of salvation.

Those against, said it held with biblical teaching on sexual relationships.

The motion against same-sex marriage failed to pass at the time.

Difference of opinion on the issue has led to a separate body, the Diocese of the Southern Cross being formed since then.

Gender balance

The assembly will be asked to consider two proposals in support of gender equity.

The first will be that the gender equity targets of 50 per cent women nominated for election, and 40 per cent women elected in all synod elections be adopted for all diocesan committee appointments and be included in diocesan strategy.

The second is the adoption of a diversity and inclusion taskforce.

Among the group’s obligations will be the provision of an annual audit of the performance of all diocesan bodies with respect to gender equity commitments, and the implementation and monitoring of targets.

Archbishop Election Act

A new bill relating to the processes to elect an archbishop will also be discussed.

It will seek to repeal and re-enact the Archbishop Election Act 1988 to clarify legislation for synod members, and enable the modernisation of the rules governing the election of a Melbourne archbishop.

Some proposals include a new process for the nomination of candidates, and that the balloting process has a prescribed path.

Under the proposed bill the new legislation would also be able to direct the voting processes, and accommodate electronic voting, and there would also be courses of action for dealing with conflicts of interest.

The Archbishop Election Review Committee invited parishioners to comment on proposals to modernise the bill in March.

Review committee chair Dr Elizabeth Alexander said in March that one approach would seek to refine current election legislation which dated back to the late 1980s.

Dr Alexander said the other would take into account the Church’s position in contemporary society.

There will also be a focus on Anglican childcare facilities and kindergartens, the environment, and the Church’s anti-gambling advocacy.

The Melbourne synod will take place in a blended online-in person format from Wednesday 12 October to Saturday 15 October.

A further single day session may be held on Saturday 3 December as well.

The article was amended on 19 September to reflect that the information on the Archbishop Election Review Act was drawn from a March interview with Dr Elizabeth Alexander. It has been updated to reflect the information included in the Melbourne Synod papers.

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