Archbishop Philip Freier
24 August 2023
I attended my first meeting of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission as co-chair in 2019. The meeting was held in Jerusalem and was the first meeting to follow the publication of “Walking Together on the Way” the previous year. Amongst other things “Walking Together on the Way” explored synodality, which has come to the forefront within the Catholic Church since then.
Just as the Catholic Church was challenged to explore and implement more participatory synodality, so Anglicans were challenged to re-receive synodality especially in its character of spiritual discernment as a means of unity.
Only last month the Anglican Schools Australia conference met in Canberra, the first in person since 2019. I was taken by how much that event was a living example of the sunhodos, the walking together that conceptually is the foundation of synodality. Acknowledging the diversity of Anglican Schools across the country, we worshipped together and rejoiced in the experience of meeting together in person, which we had not been able to do for four years. There was a strong sense of consensus about the shared mission of an Anglican School and what needed to be done to develop resources to foster the school’s Anglican identity. We left the conference with a happy expectation of future continued networking when we meet in Melbourne in August next year.
Next month the 54th synod of the Diocese of Melbourne will meet over four days. As it is the first session of the synod there will be elections to fill the positions of the various diocesan governance bodies that are populated by the decision of the synod members. This synod will build on our experiences over the time of COVID restrictions with a combination of online and in-person sessions. Our synod will agree on a range of legislation that represents our consensus on how our governance will function. Presentations on important diocesan initiatives and motions on a range of ecclesial and social concerns round out the agenda. Having participated in many synods since I first attended one as an observer in 1981 I look forward to the forthcoming synod as a Spirit-filled time for God’s people in the Diocese of Melbourne. I think that we always need to continue to receive the fresh gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the Church as we face the future.
To the extent that the church can be an exemplar of walking together in unity as disciples of Jesus, we manifest God’s gift of synodality to the Church and to the world. As we move towards the referendum on the Voice our own capacity to find unity across difference is a gift to the journey of our nation and the opportunity that the referendum presents us with. Walking together across the divisions of political opinion is challenging, yet it is what we must do as a nation at this time. Please pray for our church as we meet in synod and for our nation as we cast our vote in the referendum. In both, may the wisdom of the Spirit inspire and inform us.