This last weekend saw synods in the dioceses of both Brisbane and Perth.

Brisbane debated Dean Peter Catt’s motion to ask for blessings of same-sex marriages (as previously reported here). In what was as well-run debate, carefully moderated by Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Catt’s motion was considered in an amended form that made what was at stake even clearer (image: SynodSQuawker).

The debate was adjourned for orders of the day and then resumed on the Saturday evening. Opponents argued that the issue was already the subject of a number of processes including reports from the Church Law Commission question and the General Synod Doctrine Commission; to act now would be to preempt those national processes. Others made the expected theological arguments and also noted that what was being proposed here was exactly what had led to the current crisis in the Anglican Communion.

As debate continued opponents then moved that the motion “not be put”. That vote was won by a margin of 151-138 and so the motion lapsed.

The Perth Synod opened with no similar motion on the order paper but there was a late addition of the following:

While a softer motion than that debated in Brisbane, it was put forward by those who would be considered supportive of further revision on this topic. Synod ran out of time and the motion was not put.

Back in Brisbane, Archbishop Aspinall’s presidential address [pdf] contained an intriguing section. The majority of the speech, as expected, was given over to consideration of the Royal Commission. A later section, however, saw Aspinall speak of a “drift from classical Anglicanism” characterised by a movement away from liturgy that “spread into other parts of Australia” from Sydney in the 1990s. Drawing on Peter Corney’s analysis of the 2nd half of the 20th Century he noted,

…that moderate and Anglo-Catholic Anglicanism has been left hollowed out, lacking energy, motivation and passion and without a compelling vision or message for the wider community.

Meanwhile ascendant conservative evangelicalism continues to grow in influence domestically and internationally.

What response does Aspinall propose?

…generous Anglican comprehensiveness is one of our greatest treasures and one of our most prized gifts to the church universal. We should cherish and guard it.

But for this precious gift to be retained, the moderate and Anglo-catholic expressions of Anglicanism need to be vital, imaginative, energetic contributors to the overall life of the church. This may well be a most significant responsibility that falls to a diocese like Brisbane in the current times and seasons and a critically important contribution we can make to the life of the national church.

Interestingly, Aspinall contrasts this style with both “evangelical” and “liberal” expressions of Anglicanism. While Aspinall’s comments might be interpreted as a gentle shift away from a more liberal position it’s worth remembering that all his appointments to senior positions in recent years have been of those with a progressivist ideology. Those I contacted over the past few days expressed their disappointment to me that traditionalists were still spoken of in overwhelmingly negative terms.

At the Perth Synod the following question was included on the business paper [pdf]:

6.4 Mr John Ewing (Darlington-Bellevue)
With reference to legal expenses for the appearance of Bishop Roger Herft before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission), would the President advise Synod:

  1. a  Was the expenditure funded from the principal funds of Bishop Hale Trust or incomearising from the Bishop Hale Trust;

  2. b  what has been the effect of this expenditure on the total income arising from theBishop Hale Trust;

  3. c  has any further expenditure been made since the previous sitting of Synod and, if so inwhat amount and by whom was it authorised;

  4. d  has the Archbishop, Bishop Hale Trust, Diocesan Council or Perth Diocesan Trusteesreceived any request for funds for legal expenses for Bishop Roger Herft’s appearancebefore the Royal Commission or his anticipated appearance before the Episcopal Standards Commission, and, if so, what was the response to that request;

  5. e  has Bishop Roger Herft been asked to repay any funds used for legal expenses for his appearance before the Royal Commission?

Synod was told, in response, that reimbursement of Archbishop Herft’s fees came from a diocesan trust fund (the “Bishop Hale Trust”) in the form of a loan for A$498,000. There was no elaboration on how that loan might be repaid or when any repayment would be made. davidould.net suggests that recoverability of almost half a million dollars is likely to be low and further questions might have to be asked of what the trustees were doing. We understand there is considerable disquiet in the diocese over this matter.

feature image: Archbishop Goldsworthy entering Perth Synod (@PerthAnglican)

Leave a Reply

21 comments on “Perth and Brisbane Synods End with Disappointment for Liberalisers

  1. Aspinall’s “drift from classical Anglicanism” is obviously not a drift from the historic Christian faith. Insofar as classical Anglicanism is opposed to liberal Anglicanism, he appears to be pining for a time when Anglican churchgoers constituted a “broad church” of quasi unbelievers of divers stripes, instead of being a religious organisation torn to pieces by the homosexual movement. If so, he is overlooking that things have come to the present predicament precisely because the broad church always was a house divided against itself. There is no broad church found on the way of the cross, albeit even the Gafcon leadership is striving to keep its place within a church so defined. Some priority.

    • A deeply disappointing and inaccurate statement. “..instead of being a religious organisation torn to pieces by the homosexual movement.”
      Opening the church and expressing love and salvation for all is what is causing the evangelical strains of the Anglican Communion difficulty, not the so-called liberal side of the church. The evangelical movement has made its case for a narrow church based on male headship, heteronormative life styles and the shunning of any who believe in a Gospel of openness and practice that openness. This is not a church that can survive, it is a harsh, dead church – not a place of love, affection, forgiveness and profound belief in a Gospel of peace and freedom.

      • Evangelicals have traditionally made the case for a narrow church on the basis of Christ’s own teaching, referred to, for example, at Mathew 7:13-14. Thus salvation was never available, for example, to heterosexual sinners who remained unrepentant. Certainly there is a different ethos associated with many Anglicans and their clergy today, and Blair Martin gives it appropriate voice above (cf. Mathew 7:23).

    • Classical Anglicanism as meant by David is indeed part of the historic Christian faith.

      “pining for a time when Anglican churchgoers constituted a “broad church” of quasi unbelievers of divers stripes”

      If intended in an absolute sense, there never was any such time. Yes there has always been a significant presence of unbelievers in the Church of England – as there has been in every church that ever existed, and every church that exists now.

      There are 80+ million Anglicans in the world, and the vast majority of them follow the teachings of scripture, just as classical Anglicanism does.

      “albeit even the Gafcon leadership is striving to keep its place within a church so defined”

      The Gafcon leadership strives to wrest control of the hierarchy of Anglicanism in western countries from those who do not follow scripture. Every church knows this struggle, to some extent.

      • And all power to Gafcon’s arm. I think “things have come to the present predicament” because Church Leaders have not thought through the repercussions of their accepting Caesar’s exemption (S.47(3) of the Marriage Act – “doctrines, tenets & beliefs”) at face value. Whilst many believe it was inserted to guarantee their ministers would not be forced to marry same-sex couples, its real utility was in giving pro-SSM MP’s voter backlash protection back home in their electorates.

        Senior Leaders should have seen through that humbug & immediately dealt with the real danger posed by continued involvement with a temporal law so at odds with Christ’s own teaching. tbc

        • Half-baked calls for ministers to bless same-sex civil marriages are just the start of repercussions caused by co-operating in Parliament’s definition. “If it’s legal, why not bless them?” is today’s call. Then it’ll be “We can bless them, why not marry them?” followed by “Let’s write two liturgies – one for marrying a man & a woman, the other for every other gender pairing, & then each minister can make their own decision on what they think is best”.

          This is the sort of nonsense one expects from a play centre committee, not the Anglican Church of Australia.

      • The presence of unbelievers in a Church is not the issue.

        How do you account for the different responses of Gafcon and, for instance, the Free Church of England in the nineteenth century? The present attempt to “wrest control of the hierarchy of Anglicanism” appears to be a prudent political strategy contingent on the African demographic. It may or may not prove successful in a particular power struggle. Consider however whether every church knows of a struggle to wrest control of the hierarchy of the body of Christ.

        • Hi Chris, I referred to the issue of unbelievers in church because you raised it. i.e. i was responding to your point about “a “broad church” of quasi unbelievers of divers stripes”

          “Consider however whether every church knows of a struggle to wrest control of the hierarchy of the body of Christ.”

          Many do in fact, both now and in the past. The NIcene Creed itself is evidence of a time when that occurred, as are many passages in the letters of Paul and John. I can’t think of anything in scripture which says that Christians must leave a church simply because some leaders turn out to be heretical. That is the more so when most Anglican leaders are true to Scripture. Rather, godly leaders are called upon to witness to the truth within their church.

          • Hi MichaelA, I think you may be making the common error of confusing the body of Christ with the institutional church. Certainly, church history is usually a story of control being wrested in organised Christianity. Whether this happens insofar as Godly leaders bear witness to the truth, may need to be considered on a case by case basis. This includes the early state church of the empire, where the relevant problem concerns whether the routinisation that took place was consistent with the truth of the Gospel.

            • Hi Chris,no I’m not making that error at all. In fact, that is my point – that every single church and congregation on earth includes both institutional church and the body of Christ, and always has.

              Hence why I wrote that there has always been a significant presence of unbelievers in every church that ever existed, and every church that exists now.

              And hence why I can’t think of anything in scripture which says that Christians must leave a church simply because some leaders turn out to be heretical. That is the more so when most Anglican leaders are true to Scripture. Rather, godly leaders are called upon to witness to the truth within their church. In this respect, the Anglican churches are no different to any other.

              • Hi MichaelA, to clarify the matter, could you indicate whether you hold the nonsense view that there has always been a significant presence of unbelievers in the body of Christ. The critical distinction that you appear to overlook is the distinction between a theological statement and a sociological statement.

                I believe it was Augustine against the Donatists who first misread the parable of the tares.

                  • Hi MichaelA, well, then, we may be agreed that there is no church which knows of a “struggle to wrest control of the hierarchy of the body of Christ”. It’s good that we have been able to resolve this. The second posting below was not intended.

  2. The motions, however measured, are of course proposing a line of liturgical revision which is ultimately under-pinned by a hoped for change in doctrine on marriage for the Anglican Church.
    However, it should be acknowledged that some are also motivated by the desire to minister to the LBGTQI community.

  3. Should some consideration be given to how the church could in good conscience and without changing the doctrine on marriage signal to the LBGTQI community, including those who are civilly SSM married that they are non-judgmentally welcome in our churches, as are all people.
    No doubt this occurs on a case by case basis locally but could there be stronger specific signalling that to this effect?

  4. Specific signaling to this effect could not be any stronger, any clearer, than in the words of the author of 2 Peter, at 3:9.

  5. I think Archbishop Aspinall has probably identified the respective weightings of pastoralism & liturgical accuracy as the major, as yet unaddressed, problem facing the Church resulting from recent changes to the Marriage Act. He is clearly aware the UCA split has come about due to the lack of courage shown by their leaders. Now is the time for the Archbishop to nail his colours to the mast – “We offer the Anglican sacrament of marriage, held in accordance with our liturgy known as Holy Matrimony. We welcome all persons to our community but we marry men & women in conformance with the teaching of Jesus Christ”. tbc

  6. Without a declaration of primary principle like this, at this time, at this juncture, how can the Archbishop & his fellows expect to be taken any more seriously than the Vicar of Dibley or “more tea, Vicar” caricatures?

  7. Hi MichaelA, to clarify the matter, could you indicate whether you hold the nonsense view that there has always been a significant presence of unbelievers in the body of Christ. The critical distinction that you appear to overlook is the distinction between a theological statement and a sociological statement.

    I believe it was Augustine against the Donatists who first misread the parable of the tares.

    • HI Chris, I am not sure why you have posted this twice, but my answer is the same as above: what possible reason could you have for thinking that I believed that?

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the commenting rules