Day 2 of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia has closed with a mixed bag of events and promise of some interesting times ahead.

After opening with Morning Prayer and a Bible Study looking at Isaiah 40, Synod got to business passing a number of bills that deal with more matters surrounding safe ministry and child abuse of which the Safe Ministry to Children canon was perhaps the most significant. sydneyanglicans.net has the report:

Binding rules on all clergy and church workers have been passed during a debate on child protection at the Anglican Church of Australia Synod, meeting this week in Queensland.

The church’s General Synod, held every three years, passed national rules, binding on church workers and subject to regular independent and public audits.

The church legislation was moved by Garth Blake, SC, who headed General Synod’s Royal Commission working group.

Mr Blake, from Sydney, called it “a seminal moment for the Anglican Church because the rules were binding for the first time and because the church would be publicly accountable.”

The legislation, the Safe Ministry to Children Canon, passed unanimously.

There’s some pleasure amongst delegates that we’ve managed to get a lot of this done (although there is more legislation to come) since the next few days will see the consideration of some contentious motions. Perhaps the most hotly debated will be the following 2:

16.21 Marriage, same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex relationships (Book Ref 4-007)

Bishop Michael Stead moving, The Rev’d Canon Professor Dorothy Lee seconding

The General Synod –

(i) recognises that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman, and further,

(ii) recognises that this has been the subject of several General Synod resolutions over the past fifteen years, and also

(iii) recognises that the nature of marriage is the subject of ongoing conversation within the church and wider community and that we need to listen to each other with care and respect, and

(iv) acknowledges the experiences and genuine concerns of LGBTIQ+ people within the church and the community, and therefore

(v) asks the Doctrine Commission to facilitate a respectful conversation in our church by means o f a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships that explores Scriptural and theological issues relating to:

a. The doctrine of marriage expressed in the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia

b. Our current Australian context, exploring the relationship between the State’s definition of marriage and the church’s doctrine of marriage

c. Key Old Testament and New Testament texts on sex, marriage and friendship

d. Scripture and hermeneutics

e. A theology of blessing

f. A theology of desire

g. Godly disagreement on this issue

h. The case for and against same-sex marriage and/or the blessing of same-sex unions.

and

Scottish Episcopal Church

General Synod

a) notes with regret that the Scottish Episcopal Church has amended their Canon on Marriage to change the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman by adding a new section that allows clergy to solemnise marriage between same-sex couples as well as couples of the opposite sex;

b) declares that this step is contrary to the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of our Church, and therefore inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations of our Church; and

c) further declares, by virtue of Section 6 of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia, that the Scottish Episcopal Church has put itself out of communion with the Anglican Church of Australia; and

d) prays that the Scottish Episcopal Church will return to the doctrine of Christ in this matter and be restored to communion with the Anglican Church of Australia.

Section 5 of the Constitution states the following:

This Church will remain and be in communion with the Church of England in England and with churches in communion therewith so long as communion is consistent with the Fundamental Declarations contained in this Constitution.

The Fundamental Declarations state:

This Church will ever obey the commands of Christ, teach His doctrine, administer His sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, follow and uphold His discipline and preserve the three orders of bishops, priests and deacons in the sacred ministry.

Debate is likely to centre around whether marriage can be considered the “doctrine of Christ”.

These motions may be discussed by the end of day 3 or on day 4.

A controversial end

Day 2 ended on a controversial note. Evening prayer was closed with the singing of the following hymn:

Enemy of Apathy ~ by John L Bell & Graham Maule ~ Lyrics

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,
Hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day;
She sighs and she sings, mothering creation,
Waiting to give birth to all the Word will say.

She wings over earth, resting where she wishes,
Lighting close at hand or soaring through the skies;
She nests in the womb, welcoming each wonder,
Nourishing potential hidden to our eyes.

She dances in fire, startling her spectators,
Waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;
She weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,
Nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

For she is the Spirit, one with God in essence,
Gifted by the Saviour in eternal love;
She is the key opening the scriptures,
Enemy of apathy and heavenly dove.

The hymn is a favourite of websites such as Inclusive Church in the UK and the Dean of Grafton Cathedral, Gregory Jenks who commended it to his readers at Pentecost this year.

davidould.net can report that many delegates responded by refusing to sing, sitting down or even leaving. Over the evening we’ve spoken to many delegates who were offended by both the heretical lyrics themselves and the provocative way in which they were used in Synod liturgy. We’ll keep you updated if anything arises.

We suspect the new few days will be interesting.

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