Archbishop Glenn Davies has given the opening presidential address at the 2017 Sydney Synod, delivering what has been described to davidould.net as a “mission focused” talk.
He began by reflecting on the bringing of the gospel to the original inhabitants of Australia. Commenting on European settlement, Davies observed,
While we have much to regret in the establishment of a British colony that dispossessed the Aboriginal people of their land, and led to the destruction of Aboriginal culture, we do rejoice in the ministry of people like Richard Johnson and Thomas Hassall, who reached out to the indigenous population of their day with the gospel of God’s love. That task continues to be our first priority—a gospel for all people.
Davies moved on to give thanks for the many celebrations and reflections upon the 500th anniversary of the Reformation throughout the diocese and spoke of the need to bring this “unchanging gospel” that was rediscovered in the Reformation to the “darkness of our society”. He spoke of the challenge of reaching a nation that the most recent 2016 census has shown has drifted significantly away from Christianity, highlighting the Diocese’s “2020 Mission”.
Turning to contemporary issues, Davies spoke about the nature of the debate surrounding the current postal survey on same-sex marriage.
While the advocates of the ‘Yes’ campaign have been unrelenting in their attempts to redefine marriage, they have also been virulent in their opposition to those who hold a contrary view.
The Archbishop was clear on his position on these matters. He noted that the Standing Committee had approved the drawing down of one million dollars from the diocesan endowment to support the “No” cause. Declaring that “the stakes are high and the cost is high” he set out his stall clearly:
I therefore make no apology for encouraging all Australians, especially Anglicans, to vote ‘No’ in this postal survey. I believe that a change in the definition of marriage is unwarranted, not just because it is in opposition to the teaching of Scripture and our Lord himself in Matthew 19, but because I believe marriage, traditionally understood as a union of one man and one woman, is a positive good for our society, where marriage and the procreation of children are bound together as the foundational fabric of our society, notwithstanding the sad reality that not all married couples are able to conceive. Moreover, I consider the consequences of removing gender from the marriage construct will have irreparable consequences for our society, for our freedom of speech, our freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. It is disingenuous to think otherwise, given the evidence to the contrary in Canada, the US and the UK.
He then spoke to current related tensions in the Anglican Communion:
Moreover, it is a sad reflection upon the state of the Anglican Communion that some provinces have been molded into the patterns of their surrounding culture, such that they now approve the marriage of same-sex couples and purport to pronounce God’s blessing upon them. The Scottish Episcopal Church has already decided to take this perilous path, and it is likely that Canada and the US will soon change their canons to follow suit. These developments confirm the importance of GAFCON as a renewal movement within the Anglican Communion, committed to the truth and authority of the Bible.
In terms of Synod’s business, Davies drew particular attention to reports on Domestic Violence and Gender Identity, describing them as “significant” and commending them to synod as helpful resources in a “changing world”.
The Archbishop’s address also touched on assistance to Syrian refugees, the disposal of Bishopscourt and acquisition of a replacement and the work of the Property Trust. Comments were also made on clergy development and General Synod legislation, particularly matters responding to abuse of children.
In closing, Davies returned to reflect upon the Reformation:
Times may change, new questions may be formulated, new criticisms may be advanced, and fresh challenges will be encountered by the church in every generation, but by God’s grace the gospel will continue to be proclaimed. Our time in the second decade of the twenty-first century is no different, notwithstanding the significant shifts in community values and expectations that have evolved since the turn of the millennium, because we have an eternal gospel, as Martin Luther had. We too must stand firm for the sake of the gospel and the truth of God’s word, for we have a Sovereign Lord, who commands the seas and the waves, who will raise up every valley and lay low every mountain.
When our Lord returns, once again the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places made plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 40:3-5)
That is our inheritance and our future—let us not lose heart, but trust in the promises of God and the return of Christ our King. May that heavenly vision be before us as we attend to the business of Synod, so that what we do in this chamber may be pleasing in God’s sight and bring glory to his name.
Full text of the speech follows below: